Nearly three quarters of employees in the UAE prefer to continue with flexible, remote-work options, prompting companies to step up spending to secure their cloud data amid an increased threat of cyber attacks, according to a new report from Microsoft and the International Data Corporation.
The study, which surveyed over 150 IT decision makers in the UAE, showed that 70 per cent find the hybrid workplace – where they can work from the home, office or any place with an internet connection – to be more suitable.
"Because of the pandemic, technology was the only way out in order to sustain business operations in every industry. This meant the level of automation had increased much faster than we expected; the more digitisation takes place, the wider the target is for hackers to attack," Sayed Hashish, general manager of Microsoft UAE, told The National at Gitex 2021 in Dubai.
Cyber attacks ranging from ransomware to data breaches against companies, institutions and infrastructure have been on the rise. Some of the recent high-profile cyber attacks include those against T-Mobile, the Colonial oil pipeline, Facebook, LinkedIn and even the Tokyo Olympics and the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die.
In the UAE, there was "at least a 250 per cent increase" in cyber attacks last year, Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, head of the UAE government's cyber security, said in December.
The Microsoft and IDC report indicated that enterprise-wide cloud adoption is rising as business leaders want to maintain agility and flexibility to power business continuity on a daily basis.
More than 70 per cent of companies accelerated their digital transformation plans by at least a year, with cloud being a key driver of this.
But ransomware and malware attacks were listed as the top threats as a result, it added.
Technology, however, is only one part of the process. While systems are indeed robust today, it is important that people and their awareness [levels] are able to cope with any threat, the report said.
"We have to make sure that there is a right level of awareness for users because you can provide all the security tools in the right place, but if users are not applying them properly, they can easily be exposed to hackers," Mr Hashish said.
In addition, stringent requirements from government regulators to protect the data of their employees and customers have also piled pressure on companies wanting to adopt cloud.
The adoption of security governance, risk and compliance services has helped in protecting today's digital economy. As a result, 95 per cent of those surveyed put customer data protection at the top of their security agenda. Nine out of 10 organisations in the UAE said data protection is one of their top priorities.
"Many years ago, people were understandably afraid to move their operations to the cloud, but the attitude to migrating to the cloud has changed," Mr Hashish said.
"Moving to these hyper-scaled cloud services allows organisations to pinpoint any particular threat in one place rather than trying to find the same threat in various locations."