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Sophos is an international company specialising in security software and hardware. The company is a leader in the field of cybersecurity, developing products that prevent and combat a variety of cyber-attacks.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Sophos’ vice president for the Middle East and Africa, Harish Chib, to discuss the IT and cybersecurity sector and the company’s business in Egypt.
What is your vision for the Egyptian market in terms of investment opportunities and challenges?
The Egyptian government recently launched a new cybersecurity division to protect its ministries and institutions from cyber-attacks. At a time when malicious cyber-activity is growing in Africa, this development bodes well for Egypt, particularly because Egypt is among the most affected African countries and is reported to have one of the largest networks of active malicious IP addresses on the continent. Moreover, mobile networks in Egypt have evolved by leaps and bounds in the past few years, especially as mobile usage rates continue to increase rapidly. These trends are shaping up a mature information and communications technology (ICT) scenario and the country is poised to tackle cybersecurity as a macro-level concern.
Given our experience in the Middle East and Africa, Egypt undoubtedly remains an important market. We are observing more businesses in the country coming to treat IT and network security as a critical part of the equation for achieving sustainable ICT practices. The ICT industry is poised to play a central role in driving the growth of the Egyptian economy in the coming years. To achieve this, the government has mapped out a plan for development with a number of key aims, such as improving the quality and readiness of internet infrastructure and cybersecurity. Given this momentum, we will continue to invest in our regional channel and reseller network, while rolling out unique cybersecurity solutions for enterprises across the country.
How will the data and information security sector grow, both globally and in the Middle East?
The future of the global economy hinges on opportunities arising from digital trends and ICT-led globalisation. This economic situation also holds true for the Middle East. We have observed how the growing menace of organised cybercrime and targeted cyber-attacks remains a serious threat. ICT leaders across the globe, including countries in the Middle East and Africa, have identified the need for effective counter-measures to ward off cyber-attacks.
As Sophos protects a variety of customers, we discern how businesses across a wide spectrum of industries have begun intensifying their focus on data security, malware prevention, network security, Internet of Things (IoT) security, and more. Also as organisations continue to invest in third-platform technologies—like mobile, cloud storage, and virtualisation—spending on security will continue to increase to provide the required defence for the expanding range of attacks.
How much did companies spend on information security in 2015 according to specialised reports? What are your expectations for the size of expenditure in the sector this year?
Market research firm Gartner estimated that global spending on cybersecurity topped $75bn in 2015. Another report from IDC forecasts that ICT spending in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) will top $260bn in 2016 as organisations across the region continue to invest in digital transformation in order to streamline costs and bolster their flexibility. IDC research also states that security is expected to form a key component of any robust digital transformation strategy in the region. With that in mind, IDC predicts IT security spending across META to grow 12% year-on-year in 2016, reaching a total of $1.5bn.
How much do Middle Eastern countries and Egypt spend on data security?
When it comes to the Middle East, including Egypt, we need to understand how cybersecurity and the ICT risk profile is different from the rest of the world—it’s unique, in fact. For example, the Middle East is one of the main targets for cyber-attacks on oil and gas companies—a fact which was captured by the International Quality & Productivity Centre (IQPC) which released a whitepaper on the Middle East Cybersecurity Landscape ahead of its Fifth Annual Cyber Security for Energy and Utilities conference.
While growing IT security spending is an obvious trend, there are more interesting developments like several Middle East governments encouraging key sectors like energy and utilities to follow global best practices in cybersecurity. For example, the UAE National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) draws on a number of guidelines from the internationally recognised ISO 27001 standards and recommends that regional companies in critical sectors adopt these principles by the end of 2016. Similarly, Egypt established the High Council for Cybersecurity (HCC) and announced subsequent initiatives to strengthen the country’s cyberspace for more meaningful outcomes.
What are the main products and services offered by the company? Which services do you think are most likely to grow?
Sophos provides a full portfolio of industrial-strength security solutions that span endpoint and network. We are the first security vendor to deliver synchronised security, directly linking next-generation endpoint security and next-generation firewalls to share threat intelligence thus enabling faster detection of threats, automatic isolation of infected devices, and more immediate and targeted response and resolution.
Given the present cybersecurity situation in Egypt, we observe a growing number of organisations turning towards security technologies that are easy to deploy and manage so as to work together as one. Moreover, there is a shift from signature-based protection to more advanced capabilities that help with faster threat discovery, improved quality and accuracy of detection, reduced false positives, and dramatically reduced dependence on manual intervention for incident response. Being a channel-driven company, we have also empowered our resellers in the region to facilitate managed security services using sophisticated security management platforms and capabilities to help customers using Sophos’ proven expertise and certified security professionals.
What are the main features of the company’s strategy in 2016?
Our strategy is to remain focused on small- and medium-sized enterprises and pragmatic businesses that require the same level of security as large businesses, but that also require smarter, simpler solutions that an average IT administrator can deploy. Instead of providing partial coverage for security needs, we are steadfast to enable complete and synchronised security which is also simple to manage. To this end, we are succeeding at being a leading provider of both end-user security and network security.
What are your plans for the Egyptian market in the coming months?
In the past couple of months, we took a series of initiatives to entrench our presence in Egypt and bring more innovative security solutions and region specific threat research findings. Key highlights include the launch of Sophos Clean, which is a next-generation, signature-less malware detection solution. We also brought out Sophos Email Appliance with next-generation sandboxing technology to help Egyptian customers reduce the risk of phishing, targeted scams, and sophisticated threats.
The company conducted security research on designer geo-malware, revealing how attackers are able to localise malware attacks and launch ransomware and money-laundering cybercrime campaigns, yet still manage to fly under the radar.
Lately, adding to our partner enablement commitment, we announced the new Sophos Managed Service Provider (MSP) Connect Partner Programme, which brings synchronised security benefits to MSP partners and resellers who wish to move up the chain and emerge MSPs. In addition, to facilitating our partners with eased business and simplified security management, we announced the availability of the Sophos Central platform, which brought synchronised security management to partners and security administrators. This year will witness more progress around these initiatives.
Who are your main global clients?
Sophos serves a large network of small- and medium-sized enterprises globally. We are protecting over 200,000 customers and 100 million end users in more than140 countries.
How big is your stake in the data security sector?
Data security remains one of the keystones in our synchronised security vision and approach. We have been making a series of innovations to strengthen data security. SafeGuard Encryption remains an illustrative example, which is an innovation that made us a leader in data protection.
How do you see the competition in the data and information security sector? What are your competitive advantages over other companies?
The sector continues to experience growth and innovation. We have our unique strengths and proven history of security research and development spanning over three decades. We also have one of the most comprehensive security portfolios in the industry, spanning endpoint, mobile, server, encryption, UTM, next-generation firewall, email security, web security, and secure Wi-Fi. Moreover, we are the only vendor in the world that is a leader in endpoint, UTM, and encryption services.