Protectors of the future

Building the Middle East’s next generation of cybersecurity experts

Tags: Cyber crimeImdaadUnited Arab Emirates
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Protectors of the future Jamal Abdullah Lootah, CEO, Imdaad.
By  Jamal Abdullah Lootah Published  February 13, 2017

In this age of digitised society, cybersecurity has now become a critical issue for many governments and companies in the Middle East. As cyber-threats grow in complexity and severity, the region has responded by deploying advanced solutions to proactively protect devices, user information, and corporate data.

In the GCC alone, for instance, the network security spending in this part of the world is expected to triple to $1bn from $340bn by 2018, according to a research consultant. GCC countries are considered one of the global heavyweights in cybersecurity preparedness, and this should not come as a surprise amidst their steady efforts to automate everything and interconnect everyone through the aid of the most sophisticated and sustainable technologies available in the market today.

Building human capital capabilities is one of the noteworthy components of the entire Middle East region’s strategic cybersecurity efforts. Training future cybersecurity professionals is at the heart of all initiatives relevant to protecting digital assets and managing associated risks. We have to bear in mind that rolling out modern cybersecurity solutions alone will not be enough unless we start nurturing our own roster of highly capable cybersecurity experts now.

Talent development is therefore indispensable and required to meet the region’s cybersecurity needs. The divide between demand and supply in the regional workforce is now as high as one million per the figures from tech career website Dice.com. Worldwide, the manpower demand in the field is expected to reach six million by 2019. Although much still needs to be done in the talent development department, the region has already taken encouraging and fundamental steps necessary to lay the foundation for next-generation cybersecurity specialists.

For instance, we are now seeing increased endeavours among cyber professionals and employers to engage young students early on. Their initiatives are meant to gain students’ interest and open their eyes to the possibility of seeking cyber careers in the future. Such activities are important if we aim to encourage more and more young people to join this lucrative industry. Additionally, millennials, if engaged and properly trained, are the best contenders to help address the cyber talent shortage. They are not only raised in a digital environment but most of them are now on that stage of preparing to make important career decisions.

Complementing student engagement efforts is the development of cybersecurity curricula in national and regional universities according to the requirements of government and commercial organisations. Strategic partnerships are essential to build that much needed educational program. With its new talent, the region could develop the cyber skills needed for its continued online security network defence.

More than two thirds of Middle East organisations, per the figures from Symantec and Deloitte, still remain vulnerable in terms of protecting themselves from any complicated cyber hacking, but having trained employees can help efficiently plug this loophole.

Many regional governments are now offering competitive financial packages, hosting world-class national and regional awareness forums, and incorporating cybersecurity into their national talent development agendas as part of their overall objective to create a secure digital environment. For example, the UAE’s first ever cyber security centre was launched not only to offer round-the-clock support to local organisations in dealing with online threats but also to train Emiratis who are interested in developing their cybersecurity competencies.

There are many exciting opportunities in the field of cybersecurity in the region today as significant government resources are being poured in to combat any cyber-attack on the horizon. Building human capacity and talent development is just one facet of elaborate cybersecurity measures. However, having sufficient supply of well-trained cyber experts is at the heart of any cybersecurity effort, and as such must be continuously stepped up and strengthened for future needs.

Jamal Abdullah Lootah, CEO, Imdaad.

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