Ilyas Mohamed, Chief Operating Officer at AmiViz in conversation with Security MEA, discusses the latest cybersecurity trends, technology and challenges that impact the industry in various aspects
How would you evaluate the threat landscape in the Middle East?
The Middle East has always been a prime target for cyber attackers for various reasons and continues to be an attractive destination for cybercriminals. Traditionally, cyber threats, including state-sponsored cyber attacks, ransomware, malware, and phishing posed significant risks. But with technology advancing, social engineering has emerged as one of the big threats on the horizon. We must adopt robust cybersecurity measures and keep our assets patched against any vulnerabilities as a proactive approach. Certain threat Actors are active in the region. We must keep an eye on the changing patterns and methodologies to be proactive in our response. In short, the threat landscape is volatile, and we must be flexible enough to be adaptive to evolving cybersecurity approaches.
What emerging technologies significantly impact cybersecurity, and how are they being adopted in the market?
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Digital Risk Protection are revolutionizing cybersecurity by enhancing threat detection and response capabilities. Automation, facilitated by these technologies, streamlines security processes. Cloud-native security adapts to dynamic environments. Zero Trust Architecture ensures granular access control. These technologies are rapidly adopted in the market as businesses recognise the need for advanced defences against sophisticated cyber threats, driving a shift towards proactive and adaptive cybersecurity strategies. People Security Management is Tech run by humans and their awareness around security is a must to have, giving them a flavour of cyber-attack is important to simulate real-time scenarios.
How can organizations leverage technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, or blockchain to enhance their cybersecurity posture?
AI/ML is a real-time support system for reducing human error with fast response to incidents. It helps in automating the risk assessment and the likelihood of attacks. With the help of AI/ML organizations can detect anomalous behaviour and malicious activity with the right precision and zero human error. Blockchain ensures data integrity through decentralized, tamper-resistant ledgers, preventing unauthorized access. AI-driven behavioural analytics adds an extra layer of protection by recognizing patterns indicative of cyber threats. By integrating these technologies into their cybersecurity framework, organizations fortify their defences, proactively respond to evolving threats, and create a more robust and adaptive security posture.
What are the key challenges organizations are facing, and how are you placed to address them?
One of the biggest challenges not only in the Middle East but also in the world faces is the skill shortage. Humans are the driving factors to run the show. But due to the complexity of the platform engineers are struggling in real time. That’s where AmiViz plays a crucial role in owning the challenge and serving the clients with real talent. We also have a CEC Lab which gives our clients a real-time experience and value for multi-solution integration and helps them understand their ROI without spending a penny.
Given the increasing adoption of cloud services, what are the key considerations for ensuring robust cybersecurity in cloud environments?
For any environment key is CIA (confidentiality, integrity, and availability) and on top of all, we have posture management and visibility. We need to have a close check on the below practices:
- Identity and Access Management.
- Data Security.
- Network and Operating System Security.
- Security Compliance and CSPM
- Security Monitoring and Disaster Recovery.
- Data Encryption both in transit and rest
With the proliferation of IoT devices and operational technology (OT), what cybersecurity measures are critical for safeguarding these interconnected systems?
We believe that these challenges can be combatted by following the below-mentioned steps:
- Implementation of strong authentication with encryption on every possible asset which is exposed to humans and the internet.
- Availability of monitoring tools to keep a check of any anomalous behaviour in the IoT or OT network.
- A strong IR team with a defined playbook is a must-have.
- Regular audit and cyber awareness training should be followed as best practice.
How are you addressing security concerns related to IoT and IIoT?
The primary method is to have your security assessment done regularly to avoid any major/minor flaws which lead to massive destruction. IT and IIoT devices are either placed in our infra or facing the external world therefore we should have visibility and AI/ML-powered proactive response post-traffic analysis. For IIoT we must have access control in place with a granular level of visibility as in IIoT there is zero tolerance for privilege escalation. Regularly update security measures to address new challenges and maintain resilience.
Given the rise of remote work, what cybersecurity challenges are organizations facing, and how can they secure their remote workforce effectively?
Since end users are not available in the office, enforcing complete security control has always been challenging. However, with the introduction of the ZTNA framework, we can achieve security in a much lighter fashion. On top of security, we can also monitor every endpoint to derive efficiency and working habits. WFH’s major concern is data protection and its leakage which can be managed by DLP solution. And since we are working remotely, basic hygiene awareness of cyber security should be provided by some LMS platforms which teach us about safe home networks, and avoiding public WIFI and threats associated with it.
Are there specific technologies or practices recommended for securing remote access and collaboration tools?
There are lots of controls and best practices for securing remote access and collaboration tools and some of them are:
- Continuous vulnerability management – It helps in prioritizing the vulnerability and their fixes.
- Patch Management: Since we are opening ourselves in front of the world over the different communication/ collaboration platforms we are prone to attacks and keeping ourselves patched is the primary control.
- Strong Authentication: With the help of strong authentication in the process breaking the glass of security will always be difficult.
- Strong Endpoint security: Endpoint and EDR solutions should be in place to secure an organisation from phishing, malware and other threats
- Cyber hygiene: Strong cybersecurity practices need to be developed in the ecosystem as you know all attacks happen with human negligence and one of the famous is phishing.
From your perspective, what do you predict will be the next big trends or challenges in cybersecurity over the next few years?
With technology advancing at a faster pace than ever, we think a new set of challenges will arise and among them that will impact the most are:
- Quantum Computing Threats and Defenses: With the advancement of quantum computing, there is a potential threat to current cryptographic algorithms. Organizations will need to explore quantum-resistant cryptographic solutions to ensure the security of their data.
- AIOPs: Artificial intelligence for IT operations for the ease of managing multiple solutions and adding analytics for precise efforts by our manpower.
- CSMA: Cyber security mesh architecture is a collaborative ecosystem of tools and controls to secure a modern, distributed enterprise. It builds on a strategy of integrating composable, distributed security tools by centralizing the data and control plane to achieve more effective collaboration between tools.
- Skill Shortage: One of the all-time biggest challenges is the availability of skills will continue to haunt the industry. Thanks to rapid dynamics in technological shift and enhancement, finding the right resources becomes difficult that can match and justify the operations and professional services.
What advice do you have for organisations looking to stay ahead of the curve in terms of cybersecurity preparedness and resilience?
The first and foremost thing, organisations need to do is develop a cybersecurity culture that will ensure cybersecurity awareness, cyber hygiene and following best practices by every employee. Apart from this, the focus should be on:
- Conducting regular Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) or opt for technologies like Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) which helps you to identify the existing gaps or loopholes in the current posture.
- Investing in advanced threat detection and response solutions with a topping of industry-renowned TIP is mandatory.
- Workforce diversity is required for wider coverage of talent and skills.
- Continuous improvement is key to plugging all the loopholes, there must be regular engagement with new trends in the industry and training from the domain experts.