UAE sees surge in demand for IT security talents
The increased demand for cyber-security professionals is in response to the rise in security breaches and cyber-attacks
Increasing consumer shift to mobile, evolving web technologies and escalating cyber threats are prompting businesses in the UAE to hire more information security professionals, most often from India, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, the UK and the US.
A study of the UAE's IT job market shows that demand for information security professionals has surged over the period, from four per cent of all searches in 2012 to nine per cent in 2017. Network engineers saw a similar rise in demand, from six per cent of searches to 13 per cent, a study released by GulfTalent, one of the largest online recruitment portals in the Middle East, shows.
The increased demand for cyber-security professionals is largely in response to the rise in security breaches and cyber-attacks.
In 2015 alone, one third of all UAE firms were hit by data breaches, according to a survey conducted by KPMG. More recently, two global ransomware attacks, Locky in 2016 and WannaCry in 2017, severely impacted thousands of businesses across the world.
Regulations issued by the UAE government have increased the demand for cyber-security expertise. In particular, the National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) obliges companies holding sensitive data and systems, such as firms in banking and aviation, to put stringent security measures in place.
On top of this, the UAE government's own drive for taking all public services online, including the Smart City initiative, has massively increased the volume of personal data potentially accessible via the Internet and thereby further boosted demand for information security experts.
"What the financial sector can learn from the WannaCry fallout is the importance of investing in a sound risk management framework that involves technology change management as well as updated software - all of which could have prevented Wcry," said Charles Habak, vice-president at Booz Allen Hamilton Mena.
Investing in a sound back-up and continuity plan can also enable organisations to quickly rebuild and recover systems in the event of a cyber-attack or ransomware impact and eliminate any need to pay ransom. Most law enforcement agencies and cyber experts would caution against paying the ransom as it may open the victims up to further exploitation and potential identify theft, said Habak.
According to the GulfTalent study, many UAE employers are looking outside the country to source the IT talent they need. In the first five months of 2017, 40 per cent of IT vacancies were filled from outside the country.
By comparison, vacancies in sales and finance saw only 15 per cent and 30 per cent respectively sourced from overseas.
Countries for sourcing IT professionals include both neighbouring Gulf countries, as well as those further afield.
Among profiles targeted by employers, 97 per cent were experienced professionals, with only three per cent being fresh graduates without any experience. However, a university degree was a pre-requisite, with 98 per cent of candidates targeted holding a degree. Some 35 per cent of candidates held a postgraduate degree as well, with the figure rising to 50 per cent for those contacted for managerial positions, such as project managers.
The study analysed the data of over 85,000 IT professionals contacted by employers and recruitment agencies in the UAE on the GulfTalent.com website over a five-year period to 2017. It assessed the volume of demand for each skillset as a share of total IT demand.
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