MENA is a prime target for cyber threats

EY’s Digital Security Operations Center allows even the smallest of organisations access to the latest cyber technology

Clinton Firth, Cybersecurity Leader-MENA, EY, says Oman's heavy investment in cyber education and training makes it a strategic location for establishing the company's MENA Digital Security Operations Center

Why was Muscat chosen to establish EY’s MENA Digital Security Operations Center?

Oman is a strategic location for the GCC. With the GCC Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) responsibilities sitting with the Oman CERT, there is inherit trust and confidence in the sultanate to provide cyber services to the region. Along with the this, Oman has invested heavily in cyber education and training with a lot of great young talent in the market that helps companies like EY provide the best possible service to our clients

What is the estimated loss incurred by companies due to data breaches in the MENA region?

There are no authoritative numbers on the losses incurred, mainly due to the lack of compliance around breach notification and a general tendency to keep such information within a company. That said we do know that MENA is one of the most attacked regions in the world, and a prime target for threat actors.  We know this from our own client experience, regional analysts and even specific threat intelligence research that EY conducts.

What were the main online threats that hit companies globally and locally?

Attacks vary in scale, magnitude and focus depending on industry and the ultimate target of threat actors. What we have seen is a general trend for attackers to shift tactics toward IoT (as generally less secure), focused attacks (to gain a foot hold in more advanced organisations and exploit them for high payload – such as SWIFT, Operational Technology, etc) and ransomware (for either monetary gain or guise themselves as destructive software)

What role will DSOC play to thwart digital threats?

The Digital SOC will help business by providing 24x7 monitoring service using advanced analytics to capture security events, identify attacker anomalous behaviour, and provide holistic coverage of a client’s digital environment. A highly skilled team of cyber analysts will use the latest cyber machine learning technology to focus their efforts on the most important security events within an organisation. Basically providing the ‘eyes and ears’ whilst the client can focus on their core operations with confidence.

What kinds of businesses will form the subscriber base of DSOC?

All but the largest organisations in MENA will benefit from the DSOC, as the larger organisations will invest in their own in house Cyber Data Science capability which is a significant investment.  By providing a managed cyber analytics service the DSOC allows even the smallest of organisations access to the latest cyber technology, and a 24x7 team of highly skilled resource’s that would otherwise be unaffordable. The service is industry agnostic, as all organisations are now facing cyber threats and recognised the increased risk

Digital threats are always evolving. How equipped is DSOC to face these evolving threats?

The DSOC uses machine learning to stay ahead of the threat actors looking for behaviour outside the norm, as no matter what defences the threat passes (such as anti virus, firewalls, etc) they will always conduct abnormal behaviour within a client environment to reach their target.  Through the use of the most advanced analytics differs from the normal Boolean rules of traditional technologies and thereby removing the reliance of continual rule and configuration to try and keep up with the cyber threats.

How will DSOC help in balancing costs incurred by cyber attacks?

The DSOC allows organisations to acquire advanced capabilities and services through an OPEX model, rather than the traditional large CAPEX investment and associated risk. In addition, removing the people cost and the challenges with attracting dedicated cyber talent to an organisation will help organisations maximise their investments.

On the breach side – through employing more advanced protection measures our clients have a much better chance of detecting a cyber-attack before any damaging action is taken. The DSOC even allows clients to detect and monitor an attack in near real time, which provides further benefit and threat intelligence about the threat and provide a more focused and effective  remediation strategy. As we know the costs of cyber attacks run from the hundreds of thousands all the way to the hundreds of millions – so thwarting even one attack provide the required return on investment for such a service.

Tell us more about EY's cyber analytics platform?

EY’s cyber analytic platform uses patented data science capability from US Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). LANL has used this technology for years in to protect one of the US most critical national assets, and has in recent years worked with EY to take this to the commercial market to help solves the most complex of cyber problems for the world’s largest organisations. Working with EY’s data scientists and LANL in 2017, EY has now been able to optimise the technology into an as a service model – which we now call the DSOC.


Clear goal and focused approach are crucial for genuine success

Ananth A V, director Oman & India, LuLu Group International says that the company was able to tide through challenges due to its strong fundamentals

A BusinessToday Interview

What is cause-related marketing? What are the factors that led to Oman Avenues Mall's award win in this category?

Cause-related marketing in my view is a conscientious non-profit project run by a corporate for the betterment of the community. It’s an entity’s way to convey that it cares for its people and would like to contribute in their wellbeing and development of the community it interacts with.

For any project to be a genuine success, I believe a clear goal and a focused approach is crucial. Our aim on the children’s garden project was established from day one, which was to engage the senses of the young generation on understanding today’s pressing environmental issues. The challenge was to create a journey interesting enough for these kids to enjoy and learn at the same time.


CLINTON FIRTH, Cybersecurity Leader-MENA, EY

The experiential nature of the campaign where in kids were given fun animated lectures, then a chance to physically play and enjoy the garden and harvest it with love, was the key emotional hook that lead to the success of the programme.

How was business in 2016 and 2017, and what are your expectations for 2018?

Retail business in Oman was discernable with varied challenges across a board spectrum of functions however with strong fundamentals, we could tide through these challenges effectively.

We expect consumer sentiments to pick up in 2018 including optimism levels of consumers which would lead an increased level of activity in our sphere of operations. 

What are the ways in which Oman Avenues Mall is driving cause related marketing trends in the region?

Being one of the largest malls in Oman, our customers have expectations from us and we shoulder the responsibility to make sure that we are up to their expectations. Understanding community needs and then coming up with relevant initiatives that caters to this need is what we are good at. We look at each project strategically and then embark on it with planning, research, workshops and community insights.

Our flexible management style has given us the privilege to form strategic alliances with other companies and corporates to come up with bigger better cause-related programmes. I believe we are also very strong on the marketing front, and our campaigns are well integrated which gives us the edge on what is massive exposure to the masses.

One main key to the success of our marketing campaign has been the right channel execution and bespoke marketing activities for each type of campaign among which our main focus has always been cause-related marketing due to its non-profit nature.

What are the factors that make Oman Avenues Mall the leading mall development in Oman and in the region?

Oman Avenues Mall has been conceived and developed as a mall which offers everything under one roof, with great entertainment and F&B offering as well as lifestyle choices like the first international health club to open in the Sultanate of Oman, the mall caters to a wide Orion of customers including locals and tourists.

The mall, being home to around 180 shops, is also a key employment generator adding value to the economy, with close to 5000 staff being employed within the property directly and more than 3000 indirect employment opportunities. Indeed, the mall is a strong contributor to the local economy.

What are the latest attractions added to the mall in 2017, and what are the plans for 2018?

We are currently in the process of developing the blue prints for a larger expansion for the mall, which includes enhancing the entertainment offering. We shall publish the details of this soon.

Are there plans to open similar retail spaces in Oman and in the region? Please elaborate.

We are not currently planning to open projects the scale of Oman Avenues Mall however we shall be soon announcing a series of mid-sized malls under a different brand, the new brand would be community level projects primarily driven by Hypermarket, entertainment and leisure elements. 

MENA is a prime target for cyber threats
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