He has been instrumental in addressing the cybersecurity needs of the Saudi Technology Market; Rasheed Al Odah, Managing Director, Middle East, Trend Micro

Business Interviews Tuesday 11/June/2024 15:23 PM
By: Times News Service
He has been instrumental in addressing the cybersecurity needs of the Saudi Technology Market; Rasheed Al Odah, Managing Director, Middle East, Trend Micro
Rasheed Al Odah, Managing Director, Middle East, Trend Micro

1. You've had an impressive career journey from TASNEE to SAP, and now leading Trend Micro Saudi Arabia. What key experiences have shaped your leadership style and approach to business development in the cybersecurity industry?

Rasheed Al Odah: Managing the Middle East, especially including Saudi Arabia, has been a fascinating journey. Transitioning from a customer perspective to the vendor side has provided invaluable insights and learning experiences.

Initially, my focus revolved around Total Cost of Ownership, ensuring service availability, maintaining the company's reputation, and keeping pace with rapid business expansions. The goal was to facilitate a genuine digital transformation in our business operations.

On the vendor side, priorities shifted towards understanding market needs and trends, addressing customer challenges, and tailoring our offerings to meet market demands. One notable shift was the evolution from acquiring technology as a capital expense to making it an operational expense. This shift allowed businesses to access technology based on their usage rather than making a significant upfront investment.

Furthermore, I observed common challenges across sectors and countries, highlighting the importance of collaboration with partners and building a strong ecosystem to tackle these issues effectively.

While this topic is extensive, I hope I've provided some valuable insights into my experiences and the dynamics of managing the Middle East market.

2. Could you highlight key insights or trends specific to Oman from the latest annual cybersecurity report? How do these findings shape Trend Micro's strategy for addressing cybersecurity challenges in the Omani market?

Rasheed Al Odah: Our 2023 Annual Cyber Security report highlighted that Trend Micro solutions blocked and detected over 15 million threats in Oman, preventing over 3 million email threats and more than 2 million malicious URL victim attacks. Additionally, Trend Micro identified and stopped more than 8 million malware attacks, showcasing its effectiveness in safeguarding digital assets in Sultanate of Oman.

Trend Micro's strategy for enhancing cybersecurity resilience in Oman involves collaborative initiatives and cybersecurity education programs. This includes partnering with local organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions to raise awareness about cybersecurity best practices and promote a culture of cyber resilience. By fostering collaboration and providing education, we aim to empower organizations and individuals in Oman to better understand and mitigate cyber threats, ultimately creating a more secure digital environment for the Omani market.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated rapid digital transformation for many companies. How did Trend Micro respond to the sudden increase in digital threats, and what measures were implemented to ensure clients received robust cybersecurity solutions?

Rasheed Al Odah: The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifted our work and home environments, making cybersecurity more critical than ever. One of our key initiatives at Trend Micro is the Internet Safety for Kids and Families program. This initiative aims to raise awareness about cybersecurity challenges within the community and society at large.

During the pandemic, many of us found ourselves working from home, often sharing the same network with our kids, housemaids, and other family members who use their own devices for gaming and accessing the internet. This interconnectedness presents a significant security risk. If these devices are not adequately protected, any vulnerabilities they have can potentially compromise your work device and, by extension, your organization’s network.

Trend Micro's Internet Safety for Kids and Families program addresses this issue by educating everyone about safe internet practices. We emphasize the importance of securing all devices to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited. This initiative is part of our broader effort to enhance cybersecurity maturity across all demographics, including children and family members.

4. Could you share some insights regarding Trend Vision One? How does this initiative align with Trend Micro's overall strategy to combat modern cybersecurity threats?

Rasheed Al Odah: Our Trend Vision One™ – Companion, is a groundbreaking generative AI security assistant designed to revolutionize cybersecurity operations. Leveraging decades of AI and ML innovation from the Trend Vision One™ cybersecurity platform, it empowers Security Operations Center (SOC) teams to work more efficiently and effectively.

Companion offers a range of capabilities, including the ability to explain and contextualize alerts, triage, and recommend actions, decode complex scripts, and develop advanced search queries. What sets it apart is its plain-language interface, making it accessible to users of all skill levels. It ensures that even junior analysts can rapidly enhance their understanding and make informed decisions, reducing the mean-time-to-understand critical security incidents.

One of Companion's strengths lies in its ability to illuminate and contextualize alerts, significantly improving threat detection and response. It facilitates quicker understanding, more effective triaging, and provides AI-driven recommendations for security events. For example, it can break down complex multi-step attacks into plain-language summaries, allowing analysts to orchestrate responses efficiently.

Moreover, Companion automates repetitive tasks, reducing false positives, and offers insights into threat activity with precision. It helps organizations accelerate time-to-identification during threat hunts and empowers analysts to respond swiftly to potential breaches.

In the context of understanding complex scripts used by attackers, Companion autonomously investigates and decodes these scripts, providing plain-language explanations of each command line. This feature enhances incident response, ensuring rapid actions in critical situations.

5. In the current landscape, what are some of the most significant cybersecurity threats that organizations face? How is Trend Micro addressing these challenges to protect its clients?

Rasheed Al Odah: The threat landscape has been evolving rapidly and today’s customers require robust cybersecurity solutions without having to deal with complex tools. At Trend Micro, we address these needs by offering both advanced products and expert services to provide a seamless and effective security approach. Our offerings are continuously updated to combat the evolving threats, ensuring comprehensive protection for our clients.

6. AI is increasingly influencing various sectors, including cybersecurity. How is Trend Micro leveraging AI to enhance its cybersecurity solutions, and what future developments do you foresee in this area?

Rasheed Al Odah: When discussing technologies in the context of cybersecurity, it's crucial to address the evolving nature of cyber threats and how we adapt to these challenges. Traditionally, cybersecurity has focused on protecting endpoints, servers, and networks. However, the sophistication and frequency of attacks have escalated, with attackers often adopting new technologies faster than the original creators.

One of the significant challenges in today's cybersecurity landscape is the integration of artificial intelligence into our defense strategies. Attackers leverage advanced technologies for their gain, making it imperative for cybersecurity solutions to stay ahead. By embedding AI into our products, we can automate numerous processes, significantly enhancing efficiency and effectiveness for our customers.

For example, AI can streamline routine tasks, allowing cybersecurity professionals to concentrate on critical issues that require human judgment and expertise. This not only boosts productivity but also ensures that organizations are better protected. Technologies like ChatGPT demonstrate how AI can simplify and enhance various aspects of our daily operations, and this ease of use translates directly into cybersecurity practices.

By automating routine work and focusing on what truly matters, cybersecurity teams can shift from a reactive to a proactive stance. Instead of constantly playing catch-up with attackers, they can anticipate potential threats and neutralize them before any damage occurs. This proactive approach is vital for staying ahead of cybercriminals who are continually evolving their tactics.

7. What sets Trend Micro apart from other cybersecurity enterprises? Can you highlight specific aspects of your solutions or approach that give you a competitive edge in the market?

Rasheed Al Odah: Trend Micro is dedicated to advancing cybersecurity with innovative solutions like Trend Vision One Companion, a generative AI assistant for security operations teams, enhancing proactive threat detection.

With decades of experience, Trend Micro has adapted and refined its cybersecurity solutions to meet the evolving threat landscape. We offer multi-layered security solutions, including endpoint protection, cloud security, and network defense, enabling organizations to streamline their cybersecurity efforts.

Our innovation-driven approach leverages advanced technologies like machine learning, behavioral analysis, and AI to stay ahead of emerging threats. Serving customers in the region, we provide tailored solutions that meet the unique security needs of diverse industries.

Committed to cybersecurity education and awareness, we offer resources, training, and guidance to promote best practices and a safer digital environment. Our leadership in the industry is recognized by:

In 2023, Trend Micro achieved significant milestones, reinforcing its leadership in cybersecurity. For the 18th consecutive time, we were named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms, showcasing our consistent excellence.

Additionally, we secured the top position in IDC’s Worldwide Cloud Workload Security Market Shares report, May 2023, affirming our dominance in cloud security. Furthermore, we were recognized as a Leader in the Forrester Wave for Network Analysis & Visibility, Q2 2023, highlighting our advanced capabilities in network security.

8. How important are collaborations with government entities in the realm of cybersecurity?

Rasheed Al Odah: Collaboration between companies and governments is crucial for effective cybersecurity. These partnerships acknowledge the shared responsibility for protecting digital ecosystems and critical infrastructure. Governments provide valuable insights and data on cyber threats, enhancing the private sector's ability to respond to risks promptly through real-time information sharing.

Governments also set cybersecurity standards and regulations, ensuring businesses understand and comply with these guidelines, thus fostering a cybersecurity-conscious environment and avoiding non-compliance penalties. In case of a cyber incident, collaboration allows for a coordinated response, with governments supporting investigations and legal actions while companies mitigate impacts and restore operations.

9. Contributing to Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, you've been involved in initiatives like launch.sa and Trend Micro Academy to blaze a cybersecurity career path for young Saudis. How do these initiatives impact the local talent pool and the broader cybersecurity landscape?

Rasheed Al Odah: One of the key programs is the Cyber Academy. Here, we recruit fresh graduates directly from universities and provide them with intensive training. Depending on the program and specific customer requirements, these training periods can range from three to six months, and sometimes even up to a year. The primary objective of this approach is to ensure that when these graduates complete the program, they are fully prepared and ready to step into real-world cybersecurity roles seamlessly.

This hands-on training gives them practical experience and a thorough understanding of market needs and job requirements. By the time they graduate from the academy, they have not only theoretical knowledge but also the practical skills that are in high demand in the cybersecurity field.