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Cybersecurity: From back office conversation to boardroom priority

Cybersecurity: From back office conversation to boardroom priority

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Phil Robinson, Head of Data Science and Insights, Bloomberg Media EMEA, details the growing importance of cybersecurity to media consumers in the Middle East.  

The increased volume and severity of cyberattacks over the past year have highlighted the very real and growing cyberthreats to companies, cities and entire countries. These ominous global trends mean that organisations are no longer asking if they can be attacked, but rather how they will be attacked, according to the 2019 Global Risks Report, presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January.

Fears mount in the Middle East

Nowhere is the fear of cyberattacks mounting among senior business leaders more quickly than in the Middle East, according to a 2018 PwC international study. The survey of more than 1,200 CEOs revealed that concern about cybercrime as a risk to growth has risen to 54% in the region, compared to 40% globally.

This concern appears to be justified. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is now the second-most targeted country in the world for cybercrime, costing an estimated US$1.4 billion per year, according to a 2018 CSIS and McAfee study, Economic Impact of Cybercrime.

Other Gulf nations are facing similar challenges; the Symantec 2018 Internet Security Threat Report listed Saudi Arabia as the country with the highest email spam rate, 69.9% in 2017. To combat this, business decision-makers in the Middle East have assigned over US$7.9bn to IT security and products in 2019, according to the latest findings from The Ipsos Global Business Influencers Survey.

So how is this trend reflected in the kind of news that audiences in the UAE and the region are consuming online?

The rise of the ethical hacker

Using Bloomberg Media’s propriety AI-powered audience insight and content analysis tool, BloombergAiQ, we are able to combine thematic insights from online editorial content published by Bloomberg and more than 30,000 other publishers with behavioural insights from Bloomberg’s 64 million digital media consumers. It provides a unique view into what influences the influencers (i.e. what is written about in the press) and can map those influential conversations around brands and issues across the global media landscape.

The tool allows us to draw insights from numerous topics that matter to audiences in the UAE and has enabled us to clearly identify a trend towards the consumption of content relating to cybersecurity in the UAE.

Analysing the digital behaviour of consumers in the UAE, BloombergAiQ identifies those interested in cybersecurity as heavy consumers of infographics and video content. This is significant as it means this is ideally how brands and advertisers looking to target this audience should communicate their messages.

Findings from BloombergAiQ thematic analysis of cybersecurity content in the region suggests the growing importance of ‘ethical hackers’ in the UAE. Also known as ‘white hat’ hackers, these individuals are employed by businesses to find security vulnerabilities within companies’ digital systems.

The significance of white hat hackers was highlighted last summer when Col. Saeed Al Hajri, Director of the Cybercrimes Department of the Dubai Police, put out a call to ethical hackers to utilise their expertise to help ensure the cybersecurity of companies across the city, stating that anyone who reports a security breach through the platform will be rewarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Dubai Police.

The data also highlights how phishing and email scams were the main reported entry points for attacks in the region in 2018. The sheer number of incidents explains the urgent need for heightened awareness around data protection among companies and individuals.

The Symantec report found that the Sultanate of Oman has the fourth-highest email malware rate of any nation, with one in 156 emails deemed ‘malicious’.

Saudi Arabia ranks fifth and Kuwait eighth globally on the email malware list and four Gulf nations – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE – place in the top 10 countries worldwide for spam rates.

Looking ahead

Cyberawareness and training have never been more critical for companies in the UAE and Middle East. There are also calls for greater innovation and collaboration among Gulf states to battle cyberattacks.

Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director General of the Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC), is among those who see the risks as a clarion call for ‘greater collaboration’ within the private sector to ensure that the region remains a global centre of excellence.

The UAE, and particularly Dubai, has admirable ambitions to place itself at the forefront of technological advancement with a number of government-led initiatives announced in recent years. However, this has been accompanied by an increasing vulnerability that requires heightened cybersecurity and awareness, as last year’s cyberattack on Careem, affecting 14 million users, has shown.

Cybersecurity has moved from being a back-office conversation to a boardroom priority, and therefore from niche technology news to major mainstream business reports. With this in mind, it is likely that news relating to cybersecurity will continue to be of growing interest for media consumers in the UAE.





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