Gitex 2023: US cyber security company Splunk to ramp up Middle East investment

Exclusive: AI and machine learning will support digital resilience that in turn will be a competitive advantage for businesses, Gary Steele says

Gary Steele, chief executive of Splunk, at the company's stand during Gitex Global in Dubai. The California-based cyber security firm is participating for the first time at the technology conference. Leslie Pableo / The National
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Splunk, the cyber security company to be acquired by technology major Cisco Systems, will continue investing resources in the Middle East and the UAE as the region's digital landscape evolves, its chief executive has said.

The San Francisco-based company, which agreed to a $28 billion all-cash deal last month, recognises the "immense opportunity" presented by the region’s rapid digital transformation and supporting customers in their operational requirements, Gary Steele told The National in an interview on the sidelines of Gitex Global in Dubai.

Splunk is participating for the first time at Gitex, underpinning its commitment to expand its footprint in the region.

"The Middle East and the UAE are both of strategic importance to Splunk ... we continue to invest resources in the region and are working closely with partners to build resilient digital systems for our customers," Mr Steele said.

"By enabling organisations to adapt to ever-evolving threats, we are poised to continue our growth journey," added Mr Steele, the former chief executive of another California-based cyber security company, Proofpoint.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the two technologies to look out for in the region, both of which will support digital resilience that in turn would be a competitive advantage for businesses moving forward, he said.

"There is a lot of ambition around the use of AI and machine learning in the region, which is exciting to see," Mr Steele said.

"Adapting to AI and doing so in a measured and meaningful way will help to improve the digital resilience of customers across the region ... so this is a critical development."

Cyber security attacks can cause reputational and financial damages to individuals and companies. The global average for a data breach in 2022 was $4.35 million, up from $4.24 million the previous year, according to the latest edition of IBM's Cost of a Data Breach report.

This has prompted companies to enhance their IT infrastructure and personnel, which in turn is an opportunity for cyber security solutions providers.

The UAE, in particular, last month announced plans to develop a cyber security vision that will strengthen action against digital crime for the next 50 years.

The Middle East's cyber security market is projected to be worth $31 billion by 2030 as governments and enterprises take measures to protect their infrastructure, latest data from consultancy Frost & Sullivan has shown.

"Those that are able to keep focused on customer needs and evolve to anticipate what they are, are likely to thrive. Those who don’t keep that degree of focus are likely to struggle in such a competitive landscape," Mr Steele said.

Cisco's acquisition of Splunk, meanwhile, is projected to further enhance the former's cyber security capabilities, on the strength of the latter's security information and event management (SIEM), analysts at London-based analytics firm GlobalData said.

SIEM – a term coined by research firm Gartner in 2005 – is security solution that provides a single, streamlined view of data, insight into activities and operational capabilities to help users stay ahead of cyberthreats.

"Splunk’s strengths lie in harnessing data and AI capabilities to deliver stronger cyber security solutions for clients," the GlobalData analysts said.

Use cases for AI – which has exponentially grown thanks to the emergence of generative AI – are expected to continue to grow in number and sophistication in an evolving digital landscape, Mr Steele said.

"Organisations that are able to integrate it successfully into their security and IT operations will reap the benefits through more efficient operations, stronger security and overall greater digital resilience," he said.

AI, while "completely intertwined" data, will remain as a catalyst for driving digital resilience, which is a way to accelerate human decision making in cyber security incident detection, investigation and response, Mr Steele said.

This will help organisations to scale, enhance productivity and free users from basic tasks, allowing them to focus on higher-value initiatives, he said.

"AI is something that will impact all industries as they have all gone through a digital transformation of one degree or another," Mr Steele said.

"However, it’s likely that industries like financial services with a greater use of technology throughout the business are likely to find valuable use cases more quickly than others."

Updated: October 19, 2023, 11:03 AM