Abu Dhabi

Senior leadership at Mena (Middle East and North Africa) organisations places a greater importance on cyber security than their European and US counterparts, experts in the capital said on Monday at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX).

In fact, around 56 per cent of upper level management believes cyber security is of importance to their institution in comparison to only 34 per cent globally, according to the 2015 Global Megatrends in Cybersecurity study conducted by American defence contractor, Raytheon.

“This is an indication of good relations between cyber specialist and senior leadership. However, the cyber talent gap continues to be an issue as the education, training and recruitment of information security practitioners needs to catch up to the constantly developing technology” said Fawzi Ammar, technical director for international solutions at Raytheon.

The study reveals that 65 per cent of Mena respondents noted the need for more experienced employees in the field of cyber security.

According to Ammar, the main problems affecting financial, government and defence institutions include the lack of preparation for zero-day attacks. “These are usually attacks on systems where users do not even realise that they are under threat. Many organisations fail to see them because of a lack of policies and systems in place that allow them to detect then address these types of problems,” the official said.

Other types of cybercrimes include phishing, where identity theft is involved and victims are often asked for sensitive information such as their bank pin numbers and malware on mobile devices.

“The common mode of thought is: ‘I’m not important enough for somebody to want to steal my information’ when in reality personal data is of high value in the market and is sold just like any other commodity,” Ward Heinke, director of cyber strategy and defence solutions at Raytheon revealed.

With the increasing interconnectivity of devices such as mobiles, automobiles, computers and even refrigerators, individuals must also worry about the potential risks resulting from the “Internet of Things”. Around 72 per cent of Mena organisations have stated that they are not prepared to deal with this phenomenon.

“Smart cars will be able to store credit card details so that motorists can make purchases while they are on the road, for example. This is yet another area of concern as individual information will be shared among a wider range of electronics and so attackers have a wider area of opportunity to steal personal information,” Ward said.

The experts also stated that the increased understanding and adoption of cyber security in the Mena region is not exclusive to individual countries but is a prevalent trend throughout the area.

“Militants tend to exchange tactical information on carrying out crimes in order to up their game so to speak and so are also trying to do the same by offering viable cyber security solutions to the problems at hand,” he added.