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How industries in the Middle East are adapting to the evolving cybersecurity landscape

Industries are now using artificial intelligence and machine learning to combat rising cyber threats.

How industries in the Middle East are adapting to the evolving cybersecurity landscape
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Amidst the rapid digital transformation in the Middle East, the region grapples with an increasing cyber threat. Organizations find themselves at the forefront of the struggle to secure and protect their valuable data. To tackle these challenges, industry experts increasingly embrace technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the ongoing battle against cybercriminals.

According to Proofpoint’s 2023 State of the Phish Report, many organizations across all industries have found that implementing AI into business systems has helped them to ensure continuity, with one main aspect being increased productivity.

“When looking at this from a cybersecurity point of view, there are many ways AI and ML can also bolster an organization’s overall cybersecurity posture”, says Emile Abou Saleh, Regional Director at Proofpoint, Middle East, and Africa. 

Information professionals grapple with an overwhelming volume of data and security alerts daily, which poses significant challenges in the realms of identifying, prioritizing, and mitigating potential cyberattacks.

86% of UAE organizations have fallen victim to successful email-based phishing attacks, resulting in significant financial losses for nearly half. Ransomware attacks are also on the rise, with 64% of UAE organizations experiencing attempted attacks, of which 70% proved successful. 

Insider threats pose an ongoing challenge, with almost three-quarters (72%) of UAE organizations reporting data loss due to employee missteps in the past year.

Saleh adds, “Cybercriminals adeptly exploit human vulnerabilities within organizations, utilizing social engineering tactics to steal credentials, extract sensitive data, and fraudulently transfer funds. This impacts employees across all levels and functions, from those with weak passwords to those inadvertently engaging with malicious content.”

“Humans alone can no longer scale to sufficiently secure an enterprise-level attack surface. The integration of AI and ML in cybersecurity solutions can help reduce the workload on security analysts and CISOs, especially for regulated organizations”, he adds. 

Although AI and ML offer significant advantages in the field of cybersecurity, organizations must weigh the ethical implications, especially in an industry that focuses on data security.

Saleh stresses the need to prioritize customer data’s integrity, privacy, and security in AI and ML deployments within security solutions, given the borderless threat landscape and the broad spectrum of targeted organizations.

If we look at industries in the Middle East, the financial sector is a high-value target in terms of monetary gain. Some of the key threats targeting this sector include ransomware, phishing, supply chain compromise, and cloud threats. 

Financial organizations have also seen a surge in attacks to harvest multifactor authentication (MFA) tokens in recent years. 

A healthcare cybersecurity report from Proofpoint, points out that healthcare organizations frequently encounter four types of attacks: cloud compromise, ransomware, supply chain breaches, and business email compromise (BEC) incidents. 

These attacks have led to an average of 66% disruption in patient care. Also, the average cost of a cyber-attack experienced by healthcare organizations has surged to $4.99 million, marking a 13% increase from the previous year.

Given that these industries are prime targets for cyber threats, it is imperative for them to adapt to the evolving cybersecurity landscape and incorporate AI and ML. 

As they continue to grapple with complex threats, they are searching for innovative approaches that safeguard their data and protect their financial stability.

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