SECURING THE SAUDI FUTURE

Saudi Arabia 2019-2020 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Moataz Bin Ali, VP – Middle East & North Africa of Trend Micro, on cybersecurity, Saudi cloud services, and government contracts.

What are the current major challenges in the field of cybersecurity, and what solutions does Trend Micro provide?

Globally, Trend Micro has been a leading cybersecurity firm for the past 30 years. Being a Japanese company by nature comes with a deep culture of innovation, discipline and concentration. That is one of the reasons why Trend Micro has focused on cybersecurity globally since its inception. Within that space, the company has evolved and dramatically diversified its portfolio. Trend Micro currently stands as the largest cybersecurity company in the world in terms of technology portfolio, and we cover the industry from almost every aspect. Our portfolio addresses the most targeted and threat-intensive domains in the industry: endpoint security, data and information security, server and data center security, cloud defense, network defense, custom systems defense, industry specific security, IOT, OT and embedded security, managed detection and response (MDR), virtual patching and security analytics. All these together form a powerful strategy that we call the connected threat defense, which is a major trend in cyber protection. Connected Threat Defense can be considered as the digital transformation for the cyber security domain connecting all cybersecurity solutions together to provide an organization with consolidation, automation and 360 degrees' insight. Often, organizations have different solutions for different departments, for example, an Oracle database, SAP applications, Dell servers, Cisco network, HP workstations, Microsoft Windows OS and IBM middleware. Every piece of technology has its own security solution, so there is no one-stop shop security solution that fits all. Unfortunately, this also means that no IT security team has the ability to fully automate security and have full insight over their entire IT environment. This always tends to create blind areas in an organization's security allowing hackers to access the organization through these blind and weekly secured areas. This is also one of the biggest reasons why industrial security is so fragile, because hackers can slip through the most fragilely protected parts in factories, which are usually outdated machinery infrastructure, into the entire organization. With the connected threat defense approach, Trend Micro has revolutionized that, allowing the organization to connect all security solutions into one automated control system providing end-to-end automation, a 360 view into all security needs, while also consolidating financially and resource wise.

Cloud services are on a global increase including in the Kingdom. What are the major challenges and threats here, and what solutions do you provide?

We have end-to-end hybrid cloud protection solutions, as most of our customers in this field still have local data centers in addition to using managed or public cloud services, such as Amazon Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, or others. We need to support the entire breadth and depth of whatever cloud strategy any of our customers provide us with. Customers change their cloud strategies all the time, and being able to support this full cloud service ecosystem makes us unique in the market whether the customer's strategy revolves around a combination of physical and virtual, public or private cloud, container, serverless or otherwise we can fully support it and protect it.

What are your current engagements with the Saudi government regarding digital transformation?

Trend Micro is uniquely positioned in Saudi Arabia, having its head office for the MENA region in Riyadh, rather than Dubai, where most cybersecurity firms have their headquarters. The office was set up in the beginning of 2018, and by the end of 2019 we will have established our full regional head office operations here. The upper management that were recruited are Saudis as well, and in one year we have grown our Saudi operations from six to 70 team members, with a majority proportion of Saudis. We invested considerably in the ecosystem at large by building capacity for our partners and bringing technology transfer and training and development for cybersecurity professionals. As part of that, we have invested in the Start Safe program, a Trend Micro program planned to support 1000 Saudi start-ups with a funded cybersecurity platform to help them focus on their core business, grow with our protection, and build the right community around them. With our commitment to the country and the whole region, we have assumed a broader mandate in the region rather than just a normal cyber security vendor, we are actively working to diversify the country's revenue streams and play a critical role in the development of the digital economy and IT ecosystem of Saudi Arabia.

How do technology companies perform within the start-up ecosystem?

There is a great deal of progress in the start-up ecosystem for technology companies, and the momentum of Saudi entrepreneurs interested in cybersecurity careers is growing. At a recent cyber defense summit, we organized a 'Capture-the-Flag' hackathon, whose objective was to find local talent, train it, create a competitive ecosystem around it, and then expose it to the market. In terms of building talent, we are committed to having them compete internationally, meet with their peers, and unlock their full potential. We have another program called the Saudi Academy for Cyber Security Graduates where we recruit Saudi graduates with technology backgrounds and train and develop them in cybersecurity and help to provide them with employment opportunities either with Trend Micro directly or with our partners and customers. After launching this globally in Africa, the US, Latin America, and Asia, we opened it to the Saudi market and immediately received 2,800 applications in less than a week. We employed the first batch of graduates ourselves. The intention is for future batches to join our customers and partners to spread the expertise, and we can tailor our programs to their future requirements. To further support our customers and partners, we created an Arabic technical support center for cybersecurity in the region, and we are the only global cybersecurity company to offer that. We are also working to create a center of excellence for cybersecurity innovation and support, where we help guide our customers develop their cybersecurity strategy at no cost and support them in the event they are under an emergency attack.

What are the strategic priorities and ambitions for Trend Micro in Saudi Arabia in the coming year?

Our ultimate vision here is to become the sole trusted partner to the Saudi government and private sector in anything related to cybersecurity. To support this vision, we are building our capacity, bringing in the global expertise within Trend Micro and localizing it for the Saudi market. Our strategy in Saudi revolves around three elements: commitment, connectivity, and completion. With all our investments in the country, we have demonstrated our firm commitment to the country, and we are here for the long term. Our portfolio is built around the vision of the connected threat defense, in which we are unique. Globally, we have unified and connected all our R&D labs in cybersecurity into Trend Micro Research, while also unifying all our threat defense layers and connecting them together into one engine called the XGen engine. We strive for end-to-end connectivity for customers, bringing the latest global security solutions. We also have the largest and most complete cyber security solutions portfolio in the market. All in all, that means providing committed, connected and complete end-to-end solutions.