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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

DarkMatter recruits technology veteran Karim Sabbagh as new CEO

Abu Dhabi cybersecurity firm more than doubled revenues in 2017

DarkMatter unveiled its secure Katim phone last week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Eric Gaillard / Reuters
DarkMatter unveiled its secure Katim phone last week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Abu Dhabi-based DarkMatter appointed regional telecoms veteran Karim Sabbagh as its new chief executive, as the cybersecurity firm aims to increase headcount by around 40 per cent in 2018.

Mr Sabbagh, who recently served as CEO of the world’s largest satellite operator SES, will replace the company’s founder Faisal Al Bannai as CEO from April, DarkMatter said in a statement on Monday.

Prior to joining the Luxembourg-based satellite firm, Mr Sabbagh was a senior partner with management consultants Booz & Co, and was a global practice leader for the firm’s communications, media & technology segment.

Mr Al Bannai will becoming managing director of the company and “will continue to lead its strategic direction and oversight,” DarkMatter said. “There are many things still to be achieved, and not enough time in the day, hence my decision to split the leadership role into that of CEO and of Managing Director,” said Mr Al Bannai.

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Abu Dhabi's DarkMatter unveils its secure Katim phone

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“This separation enables me to focus on the strategic direction and oversight of the firm as the Managing Director, while the new CEO will take responsibility for the business.”

Cybercrimes cost global businesses between $445-600 billion per year, up from between $345-445bn in 2014, according to research published last month by cybersecurity company McAfee and US-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Greater awareness of cyberthreats, coupled with increasing digitisation by businesses and tighter security regulations, will see spending on cybersecurity rise 8 per cent to $96.3bn in 2018, according to forecasts from industry analysts Gartner.

DarkMatter, established in 2014, more than doubled its revenues last year to over $400 million, Mr Al Bannai told Bloomberg last week. The company, which earns about 80 per cent of its revenue from UAE government contracts, plans to increase its headcount to 900 employees by the end of the year from 650 at present.

Last week DarkMatter officially launched its secure Katim smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, as part of the company's ‘holistic’ strategy to countering cyberthreats that target government and corporate IT systems.

Mr Al Bannai told The National that the company's initial run of “a few thousand” handsets - which are sold directly to government and corporate clients and are not available via traditional retail channels - have already sold out.

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