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Why businesses within the Middle East need to guard against a “new normal” wave of cyberattacks

Why businesses within the Middle East need to guard against a “new normal” wave of cyberattacks

While cybersecurity systems in place may have been enough before the pandemic, companies need to reassess their frameworks in light of this increased stress to ensure business continuity

Gonzalo Usandizaga

The Covid-19 crisis has irrefutably sparked a massive workforce transformation. Millions of people have been suddenly ushered into a work-from-home model, university students are completing their studies online, and even social life has shifted from face-to-face interactions to virtually hosted, online events.

One thing has been made certain by way of this pandemic: connectivity is absolutely essential for business, and digital security is paramount for protecting the data, networks, and clouds that keep businesses moving forward.

Simply put, our increased demand for digital during the new normal has changed the threat landscape. With so many businesses and employees going online, the surface area vulnerable to attacks has expanded, and organizations need to assess their security suites and protocols with this “new normal” in mind.

An increased reliance on the cloud, unprepared identity access management policies, unsecured networks, and unauthorized remote access have left networks exposed to both internal and external bad actors. Couple that with the ability to play on the fears sparked by a global pandemic, and it is all too unsurprising that in mid-April, Google reported that in just one week, it saw more than 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to Covid-19 scams sent via Gmail alone.

In these times, potential bad actors are targeting companies at their weakest links – whether it is thwarting operational policy and playing on a workforce ill-accustomed to remote access, or circumventing security solutions that were not designed for the sudden influx of remote sign-ins.

With an Internet penetration rate of 99 per cent, the Middle East region is particularly vulnerable to such threats, and with 32 per cent of data breaches in 2019 sparked by a simple phishing email, companies need to take a close look at the security solutions and policies keeping these attacks at bay.

To add to the issue, many organizations in the Middle East may be woefully under-protected. According to IDC, over a quarter of organisations in the region have “poor breach detection capabilities” and 34 per cent lack the security expertise needed to respond to advanced threats.

A robust authentication protocol is the backbone of any security solution ecosystem. Identity is everything when it comes to cybersecurity, but with new threats on the horizon and more employees working remotely, the playing field has become more complex. To manage identity and authentication in a streamlined way, organisations should have an integrated platform for Identity, Access, and Privilege Management.

Companies have the dual task of implementing strong authentication while providing a positive end-user experience. Companies that want to stay both safe and flexible in this threat landscape should adopt an intelligent, multi-factor authentication framework, like NetIQ, that can adapt to changing risks.

While access management is vital, it is equally important to implement encryption solutions for data privacy and security that allows data to be both safe and accessible to those that need it to drive business continuity. A solution like Voltage SecureData encrypts data at a field level, while providing increased access to secure data that can reduce the risk of a breach.

No matter what solutions organisations decide to adopt to strengthen their security suite, now is the time to take a good look at the frameworks that are in place to protect key systems and data. Even if solutions have been adequate to this point, companies need to take into account not only increased employee loads, but also the increase in security risks since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. What was once a fine framework may not be enough to handle this increased stress on the system.

Businesses across the globe have learned some hard lessons in the first quarter of 2020. As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is imperative that we take these lessons forward, and prepare for a more secure future.

Gonzalo Usandizaga is the vice president and general manager for Emerging and Growth Markets at Micro Focus

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