The international economic slowdown has increased the risk of data theft by disgruntled employees who lose their jobs.
Businesses in the region are adopting international security standards and investing in technology to protect themselves from such theft, say industry experts.
"Banks and other financial organisations are adopting the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard," said Guruprasad Padmandhan, General Manager, Networking, at Dubai-based security specialist FVC.
"In the past few months more banks have complied with international standards. This is because many organisations are becoming globalised and conduct their business on an international scale, which makes compliance essential."
Organisations are adopting other corporate governance compliance standards such as HIPPA and SOX that have data privacy clauses to protect customer information. As businesses develop multiple databases the protection of information becomes more important. In addition customers access information from different sources, which makes data more vulnerable to theft.
Sheik Abideen, Head of Business Development at Paramount, an IT security services provider based in Dubai, said: "Banks such as Nbad, NBD and ABN Amro have all put in place authentication for passwords, especially when information is accessed online. As web phishing attacks are on the rise it is important for all banks to take this step."
Padmandhan said: "There is less data theft in emerging countries compared to the West. Middle East banks and financial enterprises are quicker at putting compliance in place. Developing proper IT frameworks and data privacy are of the utmost importance because many organisations based in the US and Europe are now conducting business with Middle East companies."
As IT budgets become tighter customers must prioritise their spending – but security service providers argue that their products remain the top priority. "Companies here are ensuring that ongoing budgets are being allocated to security as it is linked to business continuity," said Padmanadhan.
The current economic conditions are forcing companies to cut down on staff – and this is leading to security problems involving disgruntled former employees.
Abideen said: "There was a case at a local bank where a woman was copying credit card customer information onto an FTP site as she was leaving the organisation. To avoid such a scenario companies have to put in place data loss prevention [DLP] systems to protect classified files. DLP technology was not very advanced until recently but has now become quite effective."
Many security service providers have entered the identity and access management space with appliance-based solutions, and data loss prevention is able to provide protection against the misuse of universal serial bus (USB) drives.