x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Cyber-security locks up bigger role at Gitex

Gitex 2011: A rising tide of identity theft, corporate espionage and e-mail scamming is expected to drive double-digit growth for cyber-security products.

Demand for cyber-security products is forecast to grow by double digits annually as companies and individuals battle a rising tide of identity theft, corporate espionage and email scamming.

The surge in demand is so large that the Gitex technology trade show, which opens today at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, will feature a dedicated cyber-security section for the first time.

"It is fantastic growth," said Kamel Heus, the managing director in the Middle East and Africa for the anti-virus software firm Sophos, predicting a 20 per cent increase in cyber-security sales this year.

"The UAE is really one of the markets for cyber-security that has developed," he said.

Cybercrime is growing by 36 per cent annually, according to Tarek Kuzbari, the managing director in the Middle East and Turkey for the computer security firm Kaspersky Lab.

The IT-security industry is worth an estimated US$271 million (Dh995.3m) in the Middle East and Africa, and the market for anti-virus software and other security measures is set to increase, given the rising levels of attacks.

The UAE market for anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software - which is one part of the overall cyber-security market - is expected to be worth $53m next year, Mr Kuzbari said.

"In the UAE, this segment is expected to grow [by] at least about 14 per cent next year," Mr Kuzbari said. He forecasts that the industry will be worth $71m in the UAE by 2015.

Growth is also expected in other segments of the cyber-security industry.

Sébastien Pavie, the regional sales director for the Middle East and Africa at the security firm Safenet, said he sees "significant growth" in data-centric technology, which includes information encryption.

"It seems to have a strong - around 30 per cent - growth, based on what we're seeing and what others are seeing," said Mr Pavie.

He added that cyber-security is now an integral part of companies' information technology budgets.

"The security market is growing fast in the region and in the UAE," said Mr Pavie. "A few years back, security was typically the last thing that made it into the IT budget."

Mr Heus of Sophos said the most common attacks against UAE internet users come in the form of fake anti-virus software. Users download the software, which, instead of protecting them, spies on their Web browsing activities and steals their credit card information.

"The cybercriminals are really getting very, very clever," said Mr Heus.

High-profile global cybercrime cases have put the problem under the spotlight. This year, hackers stole data from companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Sony and Citibank, attracting widespread media coverage.

"The security threat has been there for years; it's been growing steadily year after year," said Johnny Karam, the regional director in the Middle East and Africa for the anti-virus software firm Symantec.

"I think the difference between this year and previous years is the awareness and the high-profile cases," he added. "It forced [chief executives] to think 'what if this happened to my organisation?'"

Several cyber-security companies will be exhibiting at Gitex Technology Week, where subjects will include identity cloning, mobile phone viruses and credit card fraud.

Companies sending representatives include aeCERT, which is responsible for announcing security breaches and tracking online criminal activity in the UAE.

Despite such initiatives to tackle cybercrime, Mr Kuzbari said, many UAE companies do not publicly reveal security breaches, which means addressing the problem is more difficult.

"[If] none of the victims or the companies who have been compromised [are] disclosing that they have been facing such kind of problems, there will be no proper measurements in order to fight similar attacks on other companies," he said.

Mr Heus agrees.

"Putting your head in the sand … doesn't really solve the problem," he said. "I think the more we speak about it, the more we make people aware of it, the more we go forward."