Investments in cyber security leave huge gaps in the UAE

Published December 15th, 2011 - 10:04 GMT
A new survey reveals that a mere 28 percent of SMEs in the UAE have fixed annual IT budgets
A new survey reveals that a mere 28 percent of SMEs in the UAE have fixed annual IT budgets

We have all heard this before — small-and mid-sized businesses here just do not seem to believe in investing enough in their vital IT security needs. It does beg the question as to whether these businesses just do not have the funds to do so. Or could it be that the businesses just do not give enough heed to the doomsday scenarios that tech companies regularly put out on data protection?

Whatever the case, a new survey reveals that a mere 28 percent of SMEs in the UAE have fixed annual IT budgets. A good many, 18 percent, spend between $1,000 (Dh3,670) and $4,999 a year on IT, the report by Symantec added. Alarmingly, 8 percent make do with spending less than $1,000 a year. But the report is not all gloom. Awareness of the need to top up their tech security has dawned on a majority of these businesses. More of them are getting down to implementing security measures such as archiving and authorisation for harmful downloads.

Harmful websites

Another trend is that SMEs here have become stringent in blocking access to social networking portals and block potentially harmful websites. But the impression, among vendors and even among reluctant end-users, is that the rules of tech defence need to be constantly updated.

“Global trends show that cyber-criminals are more likely to target small businesses as they have more money than individual targets and far less security than large enterprises,” said Johnny Karam, Symantec’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is a major concern to find that while SMEs place significant importance on critical information such as financial records, customer databases and corporate data, they are taking very basic measures to back up and secure that information.”

That’s a vendor’s view. For local businesses struggling to cope in a tightening market environment, the need to spend consistently on IT invariably gets a lesser billing. “For the last three months we have been cashflow negative, particularly after the slowdown in project activity in Abu Dhabi,” said the IT operations manager at a Sharjah-based engineering services firm. “Our IT licences are up for renewal, but as against that we are facing fund shortages on meeting our payroll obligations.”

While they are sufficiently aware of taking measures against virus threats, only 30 percent of SMEs here back up their data on a daily basis, leaving the vast majority vulnerable to data loss that could be decisive blow to their business. This has led to situations where more than half of the businesses surveyed reported data losses from power failures. “SMEs would benefit greatly from a more strategic approach to IT,” said Johnny Karam of Symantec.

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