Cisco named top security vendor by UAE CISOs

Technology company Cisco is the most popular security solutions provider among UAE-based information security professionals, according to exclusive research conducted by AKJ Associates.

The project surveyed over 150 individuals based in the Middle Eastern region (primarily Abu Dhabi and Dubai), whose responses were supplemented by in-depth interviews with senior selected contacts at key UAE organisations. Participants represent a range of organisations, industries and company sizes, ensuring that the results are representative.

The research project asked participants about a number of the challenges facing them, and about the solutions they had found effective in dealing with those challenges.

One of the challenges end-users told us that they faced – echoing a common sentiment among cybersecurity professionals – was the difficulty of differentiating between solution providers. The security solutions market is seriously overcrowded, and the procurement process is a long and often painful one. At the same time, it’s a process you can’t afford to get wrong.

To help end-users differentiate between solutions, we drew on the wisdom of our extensive network of high-level information security professionals in the UAE. We asked them about which solutions providers they found most effective across a range of risk areas (including network security, email and messaging security, endpoint security, ‘Internet of Things’ security and more), and also which providers best fit their specific priorities.

In both areas, Cisco was the most frequently chosen provider out of the 166 nominated.

Cisco did particularly well in the ‘best fits priorities’ category, in which it won almost a full quarter of the votes cast. The top three priorities specified by participants who voted for Cisco in this section were ‘transparency’, ‘quality of customer support’, and ‘integration with existing systems’.

The company also enjoyed great success in the ‘network security’ category, in which it received 29% of all votes cast. This is perhaps unsurprising, as to many Cisco is best known as a hardware and networking company, with routers and switches being a particular focus, though over the past few years the company has branched out into other areas of cybersecurity as well.

Cisco’s overwhelming win shows that it is highly regarded by the vast majority of our participants. However, we still see a few demographics with which it performs particularly well. Almost half of participants at medium-sized companies with 100-500 employees were ‘Cisco voters’ – that is to say, they voted for Cisco in any category. They make up 40% of Cisco voters, compared to 25% of participants overall.

Cisco was also notably more popular among participants who had more years of experience in cybersecurity. The highest proportion of Cisco voters – approximately one third – said that they had over ten years’ experience in the field. Likewise, approximately a third of participants overall with ten or more years’ experience in security voted for Cisco. These voters also tended to hold senior positions in their company – over half were CISOs or Heads of IT.

As with Cisco’s success in the ‘network security’ category, this may well be due to the company’s strong reputation in the tech scene outside of cybersecurity. Another problem cited with the security solutions market is the high number of small startups which are likely to fail, leaving users in the lurch. With a well-established company like Cisco, users can be reasonably confident that they’re not boarding a sinking ship.

On the other hand, Cisco was less popular with individuals who were new to the field. Though these made up a smaller proportion of participants in any case, only 22% of participants with three or fewer years’ experience in cybersecurity voted for Cisco. Many CISOs come to the role from a technical background, but others may come from careers in compliance, risk, strategy or other non-technical paths. This is increasingly common as information security becomes more of a board-level issue. For CISOs from these backgrounds, Cisco – best known for its networking equipment – may at present be a less obvious choice for cybersecurity solutions.

However, its recent expansion into more specifically security-focused solutions could be set to change that. Since 2015, Cisco has acquired 29 companies, approximately 2/5 of which are explicitly security-related, and most (if not all) of which have potential security applications. That’s not including its acquisition of access management company Duo Security for $2.35 billion, which is expected to close in the first quarter of Cisco’s fiscal year 2019.

As its presence in the cybersecurity space increases, Cisco’s popularity among those newer to the field may well experience a commensurate growth.

Researcher, writer, recovering medievalist. Currently particularly interested in the cybersecurity solutions market, cyber insurance/risk modelling, and IoT security.

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