COVID-19 has proved to be a new playground for cybercriminals and hackers

Security MEA in conversation with Husni Hammoud, Managing Director at ESET Middle East about the impact of COVID-19 on the business and how is cybersecurity market evolving

How would define ESET for us?
ESET has been a pioneer in the field of cybersecurity with more than 30 years of security intelligence at work and actively protecting users from vulnerability, risks, and cyber attacks. The latest edition of ESET products and solutions are powered by the most advanced technologies, which provide enhanced protection, multiplatform compatibility, and a new layer of machine learning detection.

ESET’s high-performing, easy-to-use products give consumers and businesses the peace of mind to enjoy the full potential of their technology. ESET unobtrusively protects and monitors 24/7, updating defenses in real-time to keep users safe and businesses running without interruption.

With COVID-19 at play, how do you think the cybersecurity market is going to evolve in UAE?
With the steady rise of cybersecurity attacks in the country, the market for cybersecurity solutions is going to expand only. Even the latest report from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry highlights the increase in demand for cybersecurity solutions during and post COVID-19 pandemic period. The shift to working from home is driving the demand for remote working apps, and these apps require additional security, which will open up the cybersecurity market further for growth.

In your opinion, will there be an increase in the number of cyberattacks this year in the UAE? 
COVID-19 has proved to be a new playground for cybercriminals and hackers, who have been using COVID-19 themed emails to scam people and breach security.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of cyberattacks directed at its staff, and email scams targeting the public at large. The number of cyberattacks is now more than five times the number directed at the Organization in the same period last year.

The TRA’s monthly report on cybersecurity developments in the Federal Government of the UAE for April 2020, noted that the cyber-attacks varied between malware (46 percent), vulnerabilities (47 percent) and phishing attacks (7 percent). The National Computer Emergency Response Team, aeCERT, in the TRA, responded to approximately 34,000 cyber-attacks, during the same month.

Which sectors of the economy are most vulnerable to cyber-attacks and why?
Oil & Gas, Utilities, Government, and Banking sectors are at the forefront of the most cyberattacks in the country. With COVID-19 situation at work, it has opened up a new set of targets for hackers and cybercriminals, and among them, education and health sectors have become the most sought after targets.

What are the most popular solutions in your product portfolio that are in more demand by your customers?
ESET offers a plethora of cybersecurity solutions and the most popular solutions in today’s scenario are:

ESET Endpoint Protection: Multilayered technology, machine learning, and human expertise combined with automated security management. Provides protection against targeted attacks, protection against ransomware, prevention of file-less attacks, and remote management.

ESET Cloud Administrator: Cloud-managed security, time, and simplifying the protection of organizations network. Setup and deployment within minutes, no need for additional hardware or software, single point of network security management and accessible safely via web browser from anywhere

ESET Endpoint Encryption: simple to use encryption application providing full remote control of endpoint encryption keys and security policy for files on hard drives, portable devices, and emails. Ensures zero data breaches, Compliance with requirements and seamless encryption

ESET Secure Authentication: A simple, effective way for businesses of all sizes to implement multi-factor authentication across commonly utilized systems. Enables organizations to Prevent data breaches, meet compliance requirements, manage centrally from the browser, and using phone, or HW tokens.

In your view, both public and the private sector investing enough in cybersecurity? Do you think organsiations in UAE are following the best practices when it comes to cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is not a one-time investment, you need to keep on upgrading your security systems and strategy to stay on par with the latest technology advances. In the current situation, when a big part of the population is forced to work from home, it is creating new challenges for cybersecurity.

These new challenges could not have foreseen by anyone before COVID-19 pandemic, but now we all need to work towards this and introduce new cybersecurity solutions and follow best practices to overcome these challenges.

With work from home that has been adopted by almost all companies due to COVID-19, what steps should a company take into consideration to protect both their networks and data now beyond the coronavirus stage?
Companies need to ensure that they are using multi-factor authentication and endpoint security to protect laptops and mobile phones. They also need to enhance the security of their cloud so that employees can access information without compromising any security protocol. Even, after the post-COVID-19 era companies need to be always on alert and should monitor their networks 24×7 and do a regular security check to ensure there are no security gaps. Educating employees about cybersecurity and enforcing best practices is also key to create a secure network at an organisational level.

What are the important steps businesses should take to ensure optimum security when the employee enters the company’s network to perform their job from home?
Organizations should train their employees on remote working solutions and lay down the best practices they need to adhere while working from home. The should use VPN to access information and make sure all their devices are endpoint secured. Password is another important security feature, which is usually ignored by most but strong password management is a must for security.

Businesses can achieve data security easily by enforced encryption and deploying comprehensive, reliable backup and recovery solutions so that no data is lost even in case security is compromised at an employee’s home.

What are the most important challenges faced by you that hinder your business in the current situation?
The business atmosphere is very tricky at this moment and it will take time for things to settle down. Delay in payments is creating a cash flow issue, generating new business is becoming difficult, work from home has also created several operational and logistical issues that are hindering the growth of the business. Travel bans are also harming business.