IT security a big priority with regional spending set to increase

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expected to lead an 18 per cent surge in spending on security technology across the Middle East over the next six years according to research from Frost & Sullivan.

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Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expected to lead an 18 per cent surge in spending on technology security across the Middle East over the next six years, according to research from Frost & Sullivan. Last year spending on network security reached some $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) across the GCC, with the UAE accounting for about $75m.

Overall spending on IT is set to exceed $20bn across the Middle East by the end of this year, a 10 per cent rise on last year. Together, the banking, financial services and insurance sectors are the top spenders.

"[Security] is certainly an area that needs to be looked at seriously," said Ali Al Hamdany, the chief information officer at Air Arabia, based in Sharjah. "It's an area that requires serious consideration to get it right. At the same time it requires applying common sense in order not to get carried away and end up unnecessarily overspending under the excuse of enhancing security."

Air Arabia's spending on security has increased by about 30 per cent over the past two years and Mr Al Hamdany expects it to grow by another 15 per cent over the next few years. Factors driving this spending growth stem primarily from government-led investments in IT across all sectors, while the rise in security spending is a result of increased employee mobility and the "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend taking place across the enterprise sector.

"There has been a rise in employee mobility, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and to an extent, Qatar which, has driven remote access," said Ankit Mishra, senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

The need for remote access fuels the BYOD trend, whereby employees transfer their work from their desktops in the office to their own laptops or smartphones. This puts company data in a vulnerable position and provides more access routes for targeted attacks.

"The biggest trend in network security is the shift to mobile," said Mr Mishra. "The scenario has completely changed. There are a lot of applications [on mobiles], there is more data and the ways of blocking apps [from employees] are not working well."

Pirated software also makes firms more vulnerable. Genuine operating systems and software come protected with their own firewalls, which fake copies lack.

According to the Business Software Alliance, the piracy rate in the region is about 58 per cent and has a commercial value of more than $4bn.