Ram Narayanan, the Country Manager for the Middle East at Check Point Software Technologies, speaks about what worked for 2021, what didn’t, and the key opportunities and challenges expected for 2022
How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
In the first six months of 2021, the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines gave hope that we will be able to live without restrictions at some point—but for a majority of organizations internationally, a return to pre-pandemic ‘norms’ was still some way off. 2021 has seen organizations commit to a continuous hybrid model. However, cybercriminals have continued to adapt their working practices in order to exploit this shift, targeting organizations’ supply chains and network links to partners in order to achieve maximum disruption.
In 2021, we saw a huge global increase in the number of malware, ransomware, and phishing-related attacks. Globally, the number of ransomware attacks on organizations increased by 93% in H1 2021, compared to the same period last year according to Check Point Software’s Mid-Year report. The well-known SolarWinds supply chain attack stands out in 2021 due to its scale and influence, but other sophisticated supply chain attacks have occurred such as Codecov in April and Kaseya. This year cyber-attacks have continued to break records with such high-profile incidents.
As a company, we are at the forefront of tackling such Gen 5 attacks and our researchers are hard at work trying to identify potential threats and build technologies to prevent them. Check Point Software’s strategy of 3 pillars – Check Point Quantum, Check Point CloudGuard, and Check Point Harmony is well received by customers across industries and the overall consolidation story is very appealing, so the strategy worked well and we have very good engagement with customers. We have grown our business significantly in the region and have built a platform for even higher success and growth in 2022
What sort of opportunities does 2022 bring along?
As life is slowly turning back to normal, we see the adoption of technologies and the need for cyber security (WFH, digital transformation, use of more collaboration tools); data is spread everywhere and the need for securing them has become important. Looking ahead, organisations should be aware of the risks and ensure that they have the appropriate solutions in place to prevent, without disrupting the normal business flow, the majority of attacks including the most advanced ones.
Organisations have started to see security as a business enabler rather than as just control. We were able to penetrate into net new customers across verticals, expand our wallet share in existing accounts with the adoption of new technologies like Cloud Security, Endpoint Detection & Response, Mobile Security, Zero Trust Network Access, Email Security, and our Maestro hyper-scale scalable platform for high throughput requirements.
Some of the opportunities stem from the fact that customers are looking at digital transformation, enabling WFH, securing users, and access with endpoint security & cloud security. There has been some advancement in new concepts of SASE, ZTNA during the year and we see the trend continue and evolve.
Did you face any challenges in 2021?
In 2021, Covid-19 was impacting our lives, businesses, and societies, and those impacts were changing throughout the year. We needed to be ready for the series of ‘next normals’ as we were responding to those changes. Following the rush to remote working, there was minimal face-to-face interaction with the customers while cyber-attacks increased continuously. Uncertainty was still looming on how the pandemic will end with no clear answers for the most part of the year. However, the trend started to change as the year progressed and we were able to engage with customers and events like GITEX helped to network and connect with what was missed last year.
What were your key achievements in 2021?
Check Point Software’s business has grown significantly over the last few years. We have customers across all verticals from Government, BFSI, Retail, Real Estate, Energy, Education, Healthcare, Holding companies, Hospitality and we see the high potential to serve more customers as we continue to invest and expand. As a 100% channel-driven organisation, partnerships are at the center of the company´s strategy.
Check Point Software had also acquired Avanan which is ranked 125 on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500. Check Point Software was also named a leader for the 22nd time this year in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls and recently named a worldwide major player in Modern Endpoint Security for Enterprise & SMB in the latest IDC MarketScape Reports. In the region, our overall business has grown with the expansion of the team and winning key accounts across the region with our core and emerging technologies.
What promises does 2022 bring along?
As stated earlier, we are looking at another great year of business growth and expansion of our field teams. The engagement we have had during the last six months has helped us position our solutions with some key and strategic accounts which gives us the confidence to believe that we will continue to accelerate our growth. As businesses are coming to pre-pandemic levels, we expect customers to set budgets for key strategic initiatives and restart those which were kept on hold. We foresee good demand for our solutions across the region in 2022.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
While cybercriminals continue to leverage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they will also find new opportunities for attack with deepfakes, cryptocurrency, mobile wallets, and more. As reports of stolen crypto wallets triggered by free airdropped NFTs become more frequent, Check Point Research (CPR) investigated OpenSea and proved it was possible to steal crypto wallets of users by leveraging critical security.
In 2022, we can expect to see an increase in cryptocurrency-related attacks. The move to the cloud and DevOps will result in a new form of botnet. With microservices becoming the leading method for application development, and microservices architecture being embraced by Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), attackers are using vulnerabilities found in microservices, to launch their attacks.
Even with businesses coming back to work, the hybrid work model will continue, and this will still necessitate the need to secure users and access which leads to technologies like ZTNA, EDR, Mobile Security, Email Security & Secure Web Gateway. It is not going to be very different, but what we see is that the customers are looking at cloud adoption and hence the need to protect data and workloads on the cloud while looking to consolidate and get better at security effectiveness and reduce the number of point products/technologies.
What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
In 2021, we recalibrated our Check Point Infinity portfolio of products to focus on those technologies and capabilities that will provide uncompromised security. Check Point Software had taken over 80 products and technologies and organized them into three main pillars: Check Point Harmony, Check Point CloudGuard, and Check Point Quantum, all managed by Check Point Infinity-Vision, the industry’s leading unified security management solution. In 2022, we will continue to focus on our prevention first approach by focusing on these three pillars to provide organizations with the ability to conduct their business on the internet with the highest level of security.
What milestones have you set for 2022?
We are in discussion to set an ambitious target for the region to accelerate our expansion and reach more customers and partners. Our key focus will be to win some large and strategic customers and add them to our clientele, and position our Infinity architecture so that they are able to consume more technologies from our 3 strategic pillars solution.
What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
As the momentum picks up, business sentiments are positive, we would be aiming to get a jump start from the beginning of the year based on the demand we foresee and continue to engage/reach more customers in the region either directly or through channel partners and present our vision and how we can add value to bolster their cyber security architecture/ needs.
Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2022?
Check Point Software is already present in all the markets in the region. We will continue to build on our strategy by providing customers with gold standard management consolidated solutions with a prevention-first approach. We will set out early in 2022 and bolster with additional technologies and enhancements as Cyber Security is a very dynamic domain.
We are looking forward to our CPX 2022 (Check Point Experience) which is planned for Feb 2-3 where we will have customers and partners join to learn to hear from experts, strategy, vision, and our roadmap, and any new announcements. This virtual event will focus on providing the knowledge needed to defend against the latest security challenges brought on by the post-pandemic world and will feature an exclusive line up of keynotes and in-depth sessions from industry visionaries and global experts who are helping to shape the future of cyber security
We are very positive and excited to enter the new year with a very healthy business outlook and we are hopeful to overachieve the milestones we set for ourselves. Our strategy & vision are resonating very well with customers and partners and we would like to build on that significantly.