Plague of viruses, worms, and spam fuel Gulf States security software boom

Fuelled by a plague of viruses and spam, security software spending rose by over a quarter to $52.59 million in the Gulf States in 2003 and is expected to rise 27 per cent during 2004, recent analysis of the Middle Eastern security market has revealed.

According to a newly published IDC study, viruses, worms, and spam are widely considered to be the largest security threats to businesses in the Gulf, while IT maturity, security awareness, and security adoption rates were found to vary considerably across the region, which has created discrete IT security markets where holistic implementation often takes a back seat to specific threats.

"Organisations are nevertheless beginning to take a more proactive approach to IT security," said Heini Booysen, senior analyst, IDC CEMA's Software Group. "With more businesses conducting transactions online or via email, continuity has become essential as disruption can result in substantial losses. In the long term, this should translate into approaches that adopt a strategic path rather than an ad hoc path to the implementation of security solutions."

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were identified as first and second in terms of overall investment in security software in the Gulf in 2003, reflecting both their size and their relative levels of IT development. Saudi Arabia has the largest population base and has recently been instituting IT and ecommerce initiatives, while the UAE is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the region, the study noted.

Together, these two nations were found to account for more than three quarters of the market last year, with the rest of the region's countries covered in IDC's study (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar) comprising the rest.

The report found that secure content management (SCM) dominated the IT security market of the Gulf States in 2003, accounting for more than 60 per cent of total revenue. This figure, however, will drop in the coming years as demand for other security measures picks up speed, the report predicted.

In terms of overall spend Intrusion detection and vulnerability assessment rated second, firewall and VPN third, and 3A (authentication, administration, authorization) fourth last year.

"We have seen a notable increase in intrusion detection products across the region," added Booysen. "But SCM will continue to account for the largest share of the market for the foreseeable future."

Symantec, McAfee, Internet Security Systems, Trend Micro, and Computer Associates together accounted for 70 per cent of spending on IT security software in the Gulf States in 2003, according to IDC's report. Nevertheless, the market was relatively diffuse, with more than 25 vendors competing for market share.

"Although the market is expanding," said Booysen, "vendors need to get actively involved in educating both channel partners and clients, especially if they want to inform users on the benefits of adopting holistic solutions. Also, as the market matures, consolidation is inevitable, and vendors that plan accordingly will have a competitive advantage."

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