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Illumio Expands in the Middle East to Strengthen Cyber Resilience

authorAshraf Daqqa, Regional Sales Director, META Region
authorJanuary 23, 2023

As we head into our tenth year of business at Illumio, it’s a perfect time to reflect on how far we’ve come.  

In the past year, we crossed some significant milestones: 

For me, one of the most exciting and understated developments is our entry into the Middle East and the birth of our first regional team.  

The Middle East is not a completely new market for us. For the past 18 months, we have been serving government and enterprise businesses across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) through our partnership with leading distributor CyberKnight. We have already established ourselves as a leader in Zero Trust and microsegmentation among the CISO community, successfully led fruitful discussions at MENA ISC, launched our first META Certified Professional Bootcamp, and won the CyberKnight Growth Vendor of the Year award at GITEX.

However, as Illumio’s growth across EMEA accelerates, it’s important that we strategically locate our team and services in the locations with the biggest growth potential. And that’s not just growth for us as a business, but growth for our customers, partners, and prospects.

Why the Middle East?

The Middle East is one of the most ambitious and digitally connected regions in the world. From the launch of the UAE strategy for Artificial Intelligence to Neom, Saudi Arabia’s $500bn eco-city project, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has a clear technological vision to diversify its economies from traditional crude oil. 

In the last decade, countries and businesses across the Middle East have been rapidly adopting cutting-edge new technologies to support the digital revolution. The Gulf wants to lead the world in the fourth industrial revolution with countries like Saudi Arabia accelerating their dependence on digital technology. And IDC predicts investments in digital transformation across the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) region will surpass $74 billion by 2026.

But as the number of technologies adopted and connections between cities, businesses, and industries increases, so too do the risks. Threats to operational technology are rising and over half of cybersecurity experts in the UAE feel they are fighting a lose battle against cybercriminals.

Ransomware attacks are also impacting businesses in the Middle East significantly:

  • The World Economic Forum's Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022 lists ransomware as the fastest-growing threat globally with cyber extortion growing exponentially in the Middle East and Africa, according to Orange Cyber Defense.
  • Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in particular, experienced the highest number of ransomware attacks of all GCC countries between mid-2021 and mid-2022, according to the Ransomware Uncovered 2021/2022 report by Group-IB.
  • Reports also show that 17 UAE companies and 15 Saudi companies were held hostage during the first two financial quarters of 2022 alone.  

Cyberattacks have evolved from simply stealing data to impacting availability, and businesses urgently need to take steps to strengthen cyber resilience or risk diminishing any technological transformation efforts.

Increasing cyber resilience for Gulf businesses

In order to technologically thrive, businesses in the Middle East need strong cybersecurity foundations. His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Al-Kuwaiti, Head of Cyber Security for the UAE government has openly shared his plans to build the world’s most secure digital society.

But the path to cyber resilience for businesses starts with Zero Trust.

Zero Trust continues to be globally validated as the most effective approach for securing enterprise IT environments. It’s moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have for organizations, with Europe and the US among the first government agencies and critical infrastructure providers now mandating the adoption of Zero Trust architecture (ZTA) by 2024.

What is Zero Trust architecture? Learn more here.

It’s clear there is a strong appetite for Zero Trust among Middle East businesses from our conversations at GITEX 2022. Zero Trust as a strategy is well-defined and understood, and there is widespread recognition of its role in reducing the ransomware threat. However, a lot of discussion around Zero Trust to date has focused on Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). This is only one part of the Zero Trust puzzle.

The only way to stop ransomware is to prevent attackers from moving laterally by isolating and containing the attack at the initial point of entry. This is why organizations globally are now turning towards Zero Trust Segmentation (ZTS) as the answer.

Reducing risk and accelerating transformation with Zero Trust Segmentation

ZTS is based on the “never trust, always verify” principle of Zero Trust and is the only reliable and effective solution to stopping ransomware attacks. Emulated ransomware attacks conducted by Bishop Fox revealed that ZTS can detect and stop ongoing ransomware attacks four times faster than detection and response alone.

Read about the new era of Zero Trust Segmentation here.

ZTS has also been proven to deliver several business benefits including reduced risk, decreased costs, and accelerated innovation.

According to research from ESG, those that have implemented ZTS as part of their Zero Trust strategy:

  • Save an average of $20.1 million in application downtime
  • Avert 5 cyber disasters per year
  • Plan to accelerate 14 more digital and cloud transformation projects over the next year

ZTS is also critical in helping organizations safeguard sensitive data and comply with data protection laws in Gulf states and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Essential Cybersecurity Controls (ECC-1: 2018).

Some of the world’s leading organizations already rely on Illumio’s ZTS platform, including 6 of the 10 largest global banks. These companies are using Illumio to reduce risk, strengthen compliance, and support transformation.

But don’t just take my word for it, see the benefits yourself:

“Illumio made it remarkably easy for us to design, build and operationalize a Zero Trust architecture with massive scale.” – Edwin Leong, Data Security Architect, MGM China

“We are confident that our applications are protected with the right level of segmentation – with no disruptions during enforcement.” – YC Chan, Head of Infrastructure and Operations, Cathay Pacific

“Illumio gives our security team the opportunity to say ‘yes’ more often to the organization,” – Brian Chess, Senior VP of Cloud Operations, Oracle NetSuite

Read stories from other Illumio customers here.

Cyber success starts with a strong vision

The GCC has set a bold ambition to become the global leader in cybersecurity. The UAE National Cybersecurity Strategy aims “to create a safe and resilient cyber infrastructure that enables citizens to fulfil their aspirations and empowers businesses to thrive.”

It’s a goal closely aligned to our own mission at Illumio which is to enable every organization to realize a future without high-profile breaches.

But if the region truly wants to strengthen cyber resilience, digital transformation and cybersecurity must go hand-in-hand. Businesses need to understand their risks, minimize unnecessary access, and segment their network to reduce the impact of attacks.

Doing so will help build organizations’ resilience to cyberattacks while also supporting digital transformation to ensure the Middle East positions itself firmly at the center of the global technology stage for years to come.

Ready to learn more about Illumio Zero Trust Segmentation? Contact us today for a consultation and demo.

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Assume breach.
Minimize impact.
Increase resilience.

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