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Alain Penel, the Regional Vice President for the Middle East at Fortinet, speaks about what worked in 2020 and his plans for tackling 2021

How was 2020 for the industry and your company?
The coronavirus pandemic has presented us with a unique, double-pronged view of change. It is both reshaping and redefining how business gets done, enabled by the trajectory of digital transformation that began long before COVID-19 forced organizations to rethink their strategies for the purpose of business continuity. This has been most notably demonstrated by the sudden and rapid shift to telecommuting, a concept that has become quintessential in 2020.

This challenge was exacerbated by the unprecedented cyber threat activity that has resulted from an increased reliance on personal device usage and the influx of workers outside the corporate network. Throughout the pandemic, cyber threat actors have not let a single opportunity slip by. They have preyed on fear and concern around COVID-19 with phishing attacks while also capitalizing on security flaws within the remote workforce.

During these times of rapid change, especially over the coming months, deploying fully integrated security protections will need to be a top priority.

What sort of opportunities did 2020 bring along?
In the 2020 Remote Workforce Cybersecurity Report, we have explored the challenges organizations faced as a result of the shift in remote work and how organizations are planning to secure their remote workforce moving forward.

Only 40% of organizations had a business continuity plan in place prior to the pandemic. But as a result of the pandemic and the rapid shift to remote work, 32% invested further in this area. Almost all organizations expect to invest more to secure telework long-term, with nearly 60% of enterprises spending more than $250,000 in secure telework investments in the next 24 months. Moving forward, the majority of enterprises surveyed intend to make unplanned upgrades to their existing systems to secure telework. Many also plan to add new technologies not previously in place.

There is an opportunity to maximize their investments with cybersecurity platforms designed to provide comprehensive visibility and protection across the entire digital infrastructure, including networked, application, multi-cloud, and mobile environments.

Did you face any challenges in 2020?
2020 was a challenging year for businesses across the globe. We at Fortinet are focused on doing our part to protect the health of everyone in our extended organization, including employees, customers, partners, and suppliers. We are also committed to helping our customers and partners around the world maintain continuity and security in the midst of rapid changes and new risks. Because our solutions secure devices and transactions moving from the edge to the network core and to the cloud, our customers have been able to keep their workforces productive even as they transition to a remote workforce.

What were your key achievements in 2020?
Innovations in both security and networking, focused vision on flexible secure access from and to anywhere, and continuous industry recognition from a range of third-party organizations, has fueled our expansion across all business verticals, and we believe this has led to our placement as a Leader in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure.

Moreover, Fortinet has been recognized as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls. We are very proud of this latest recognition from Gartner. And proud of our commitment to serve more than 480,000 customers across the world by tackling some of the biggest and most diverse challenges in networking and security. The threat landscape continues to evolve and more than ever organizations need a security solution to meet the demands of today’s digital businesses and dynamic network environments.
This year marks our 20th anniversary, two-decades of security-driven networking and we are just getting started !

What promises does 2021 bring along?
In an era of constant innovation, it is important to be constantly aware of the impact that new technology has on the threat landscape. The latest round of FortiGuard Labs’ threat predictions for 2021 highlights the fact that cybercriminals will only grow more advanced in their attack methods. Cyber adversaries leveraging intelligent edges, 5G-enabled devices, and advances in computing power will create a wave of new and advanced threats at unprecedented speed and scale.

In addition, threat actors will continue to shift significant resources to target and exploit emerging edge environments, such as remote workers, or even new OT edge environments, rather than just targeting the core network. For defenders, it is critical to plan ahead now by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to speed threat prevention, detection, and response. Actionable and integrated threat intelligence will also be important to improve an organization’s ability to defend in real-time as the speed of attacks continues to increase.

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
Investing in cybersecurity hasn’t been more important than it is today, and we are seeing businesses being strategic in their investments. Considering business continuity and a hybrid remote workforce is the future, we see great opportunity for secure SD-Wan deployments, especially with telecoms and large enterprises. We also see increased opportunities to secure public and multi-cloud environments as businesses increasingly deploying a variety of workloads across multiple clouds. Our solutions provide broad protection across the entire digital attack surface, both on-premises and in public clouds.

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2021?
This year, organizations have witnessed unprecedented shifts in both work paradigms and threat activity. Because of this rapidly evolving threat landscape, it will take a careful combination of technology, people, training, and partnerships to secure against the types of attacks coming from cyber adversaries in the future.

Indeed, cybersecurity vendors, threat research organizations, and other industry groups will need to collaborate with each other for information sharing and include working with law enforcement to help dismantle adversarial infrastructures to prevent future attacks. We also believe that the evolution of AI will be critical against evolving attacks, AI-enhanced technologies that can see, anticipate, and counter-attacks will become a reality because cyberattacks of the future will occur in microseconds.

What will be your key focus areas and milestones for 2021?
Moving into 2021, Fortinet is focusing on key areas such as The Fortinet Security-driven Networking model; Secure SD-WAN, and securing a 5G-enabled future. Our Security-driven networking model is essentially defining a new, third generation of security solutions and strategies designed to meet the security and networking demands of today’s highly dynamic and hybrid networks.

5G promises to deliver remarkably high speeds, lower latency, and more bandwidth, which can help organizations keep pace with today’s digital marketplace and support new digital innovation initiatives. But with any new technology comes new security risks. As 5G becomes commercially available and service providers prepare to take advantage of this new opportunity, cybersecurity must be top-of-mind. Fortinet is ideally positioned to provide an end to end security for the 5G ecosystem and use cases in the business market segment.

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