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Middle East firms collect more data than they can handle: study

With pressure to ensure consumer data is protected mounting, Gemalto has released the results of a global study which reveals that more than half of the companies surveyed in the Middle East (56 percent) are unable to analyse all the data they collect and 32 percent do not know where their sensitive data is stored. Compounding this uncertainty, 42 percent of IT professionals in the region admit they don’t carry out all the procedures in line with data protection laws such as GDPR.

Sebastian Pavie
Sebastian Pavie, Gemalto

These are just some of the findings of the fifth-annual Data Security Confidence Index, which surveyed 1,050 IT decision makers and 10,500 consumers worldwide.

According to the study, 94 percent of the surveyed Middle East organisations agree that analysing data effectively gives them a competitive edge in their industry.

“If businesses can’t analyse all of the data they collect, they can’t understand the value of it – and that means they won’t know how to apply the appropriate security controls to that data,” says Sébastien Pavie, Regional Director META, Enterprise and Cybersecurity, at Gemalto. “Whether it’s selling it on the dark web, manipulating it for financial gain or to damage reputations, unsecured data is a goldmine for hackers. You only need to look at the recent hacks on Facebook and, closer to home, on the riding app Careem, to see the damage that can be done. What’s more, data manipulation can take years to discover, and with data informing everything from business strategy to sales and product development, its value and integrity cannot be underestimated.”

When it comes to how data is being secured, the study found that 60 percent of IT professionals in the Middle East say perimeter security is effective at keeping unauthorised users out of their networks. This is despite the majority of IT professionals in the region (70 percent) believing unauthorised users can access their corporate networks. However, once the hackers are inside, less than half of the regional companies surveyed (46 percent) are extremely confident that their data would be secure. UK businesses are the most concerned with just 24 percent prepared to say they’re extremely confident, with Australia the highest (65 percent)

Even though there is still faith in how they’re securing their networks, one third (24 percent) of Middle East companies reported that their perimeter security had been breached in the past 12 months. Of those that had suffered a breach at some point, only 7 percent of that compromised data was protected by encryption, leaving the rest exposed.

According to the study, a growing awareness of data breaches and communications around GDPR have led to the majority (88 percent) of consumers in the Middle East believing that it is important for organisations to comply with data regulations. In fact, (39 percent) are aware what encryption is, showing an understanding of how their data should be protected.

“It’s time organisations got their houses in order; starting with who oversees their data security,” said Pavie. “A central figure such as a Data Protection Officer – essential in some circumstances under GDPR – must be appointed to the board to lead data security from the top down. Next is having more insight and analysis on the data collected to ensure that it is both correctly protected and enabling more informed business decision-making.

“Finally, a mindset change. Organisations must realise that it’s no longer a case of if, but when a breach occurs, and protect their most valuable asset – data – through encryption, two-factor authentication and key management, rather than solely focusing on perimeter protection.”

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