Fortinet's focus on cybersecurity and sustainability
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Fortinet’s focus on cybersecurity and sustainability 

Fortinet’s focus on cybersecurity and sustainability 

Fortinet’s Alain Sanchez discusses cybersecurity trends, GCC initiatives, and sustainability efforts in an exclusive interview with Gulf Business

Marisha Singh
Fortinet - cybersecurity

In a conversation with Gulf Business, Alain Sanchez, EMEA CISO of Fortinet, discusses the company’s experiences and perspectives at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona 2024.

He expands on Fortinet’s engagement at the event, exploring topics ranging from the impact of artificial intelligence on cybersecurity to the company’s initiatives in the GCC region and its commitment to sustainability. Sanchez sheds light on emerging cybersecurity threats, strategies for small businesses, and Fortinet’s future endeavors in providing holistic cybersecurity solutions.

Q. How was the MWC 2024 for Fortinet?

It was excellent. We engaged in fruitful discussions with customers, addressing their concerns and optimising our time effectively.

The global theme is artificial intelligence (AI). Fortinet has been investing in AI for the past five to seven years and holds more patents in AI-related security than any other vendor and we were able to showcase that at MWC 2024.

Q. Could you provide insight into Fortinet’s activities in the GCC region?

The GCC region is visionary in cybersecurity, viewing it as an enabler for digital transformation. We see significant investment projects in Saudi Arabia, like NEOM, driving the adoption of advanced cybersecurity solutions.

The region doesn’t see cybersecurity as just enhancing the bottom line. They actually imagine cybersecurity as an enabler.

It’s like you have a Formula One car, and because you have superior braking system, you can have bold trajectories in the corner. And digital transformation in the Middle East is a race. You have to be ahead of your competition. Hence, you have to manage the best risk curve and have superior cybersecurity solutions precisely enables that.

Q. Are there any similarities or differentiating factors in what clients want from UAE to, say, Saudi Arabia?

I would say Saudi Arabia has huge investment projects, NEOM being just one of them, but there are many others.

This big city on the lake, for instance. Here the operational technology, the connected objects, are very important because it’s a new edge. It’s a new generation of applications operating at the edge of the network, leveraging, for instance, the low latency attributes of 5G antennas, just to mention that.

That requires a holistic cybersecurity, not only at the core or not only at the data center, but holistic distributed through the cloud, through the edge, through the middleware, and able to secure everywhere from the top applications down to the core of the applications. Interesting.

Q. How are you approaching the implementation of 5G in the region?

We see enterprises and service providers taking advantage of the distributed architecture of 5G, where you can slice the network and leverage an existing investment in hardware through many different customers.

Obviously, the customers want to be reinsured that this slice-sharing process is really compatible with their vision of cybersecurity. And here, Fortinet provides a holistic view that enables the customers to have a differentiated risk management strategy over 5G.

Q. What are some of the emerging cybersecurity threats you’re observing, particularly in the GCC region?

Obviously ransomware still are a very important part of the threat. But ransomware encrypts data and asks people for money to decrypt. Now we see other threats such as wipers.

They destroy, the aim is not to take you ransom. The aim is to make your information system unavailable.

And we see sophisticated attack scenario coming this way. We see bandit countries attacking GCC, for instance. And we work in collaboration of global institutions such as Interpol, but also government institutions all over the planet to support their action against cybercrime.

Q. How can smaller businesses (SMEs) protect themselves from cybersecurity threats?

We have a lot of threats against massive infrastructure, but obviously threats have become smarter and they’re targeting smaller businesses, smaller enterprises. The size is not proportional to the danger of the threat.

Actually, it’s even more critical for small companies because they can be terminated by an attack. And there is a systematic scanning of every new single connection, companies, individuals, mobile, fixed, that immediately scrutinises the state of the protection and tries attacks. So we also have the ability to secure small enterprises.

At the  Mobile World Congress, service providers showcased services with our products, with embedded security for SMEs. This is why a technology like SASE, for instance, which is basically you use the one in the cloud not only to provide connectivity, but to provide security.

And we see that as a rising trend for SMEs.

Q. Sustainability is a key focus in the UAE. How is Fortinet contributing in this regard?

Fortinet has dedicated resources to corporate social responsibility, including carbon neutrality efforts and gender equity programs. The last generation of our security processor units, SPUs, consumes 88 per cent less power for two orders of magnitude of performance over the previous generation.

I generally see more than 100 questions in big RFPs, in big projects, only about CSR. And we are very proud to be able to give to all the ecosystem of our customers, MSSP, service providers, the entire documented compliance proof points of our value in customer social responsibility.

We prioritise CSR considerations in customer engagements. We have published goals, including achieving carbon neutrality. For example, our headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, is already carbon neutral. 

Q. What can we expect from Fortinet in the future?

We will continue to provide differentiated cybersecurity solutions tailored to specific industries, enhance capabilities in technologies like SASE, and invest in artificial intelligence.

Our goal is to offer integrated and automated security solutions through our Security Fabric framework.

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