From the magazine: Trend Micro bridging the training, jobs gap in KSA

Graduate Academy on-boards Saudi graduates for on-the-job cybersecurity training

Complex cloud migration can be a major flashpoint for cyberattacks, warned Dr Bin Ali.
Complex cloud migration can be a major flashpoint for cyberattacks, warned Dr Bin Ali.

This past July, Trend Micro announced the first Saudi national graduation from its Saudi Arabia Graduate Academy for Cyber Security Program. The Saudi Arabia Graduate Academy for Cyber Security Program is an initiative by the cybersecurity firm that aims to foster high-value technology and cybersecurity jobs for young Saudis. During the two-year-long program, participants can develop their general business skills, technical skills, and soft skills, especially thanks to shadowing Trend Micro teams across multiple areas.

In 2019, the Graduate Academy saw more than 2,800 applications from recent Saudi university graduates with degrees in engineering and computer science. The program includes general and technical skills development, including technical and soft-skills training. The program includes out-of-the-box challenges designed to put participants’ mental abilities to the test.

Participants shadow different teams in multiple areas of business development, system and technical consulting, engineering, marketing, technical support, and operations, enabling them to identify their talents for future career leverage.  The first cohort of 10 Saudi nationals is currently receiving rotational assignments. Every couple of months, they are given a new assignment. This whole rotation will finish in two years; then their career role will be fixed, explained Dr Moataz Bin Ali, vice president, Trend Micro, Middle East and North Africa.

Saudi Arabia faces a growing cybersecurity skills gap, observed Dr Bin Ali. Among CEOs in Saudi Arabia, only about one-third (36%) say that their organisations are prepared for a cyberattack, much lower than the global average (51%), according to a recent report from KPMG.

Cybersecurity spending is set to reach USD3.5 billion in 2019, according to a recent report by MicroMarket Monitor. However, spending on cybersecurity solutions is not enough, said Dr Bin Ali. “Saudi organisations increasingly need IT staff who can manage security as the foundation for digital transformation, understand the rapidly changing cybersecurity threat landscape, adopt the right technologies, and develop internal security staff processes and guidelines,” he added.

Security products are also increasingly complex, especially in protecting the cloud, endpoints, and networks. As a result, the KPMG report also shows that about 60% of Saudi Arabia-based CEOs expect cybersecurity specialists and data scientists to be important for the company’s growth. “Programs such as the Graduate Academy for Cyber Security from Trend Micro can complement university programs with hands-on experience and ensure that Saudi organisations can optimise their cybersecurity preparedness,” Dr Bin Ali added.

Vision 2030

Saudi Vision 2030, with its focus on digital transformation, has made great strides in encouraging organisations leverage data to transform citizen and customer experiences. On the flip side, this digital drive has expanded the cyber threat landscape, especially as cyber threats increase in intensity and complexity, observed Dr Bin Ali.

To meet the cybersecurity challenge, Saudi government organisations – including the Communications and IT Authority, the National Cybersecurity Authority, the National Cybersecurity Centre, and the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones -- have been working on national security guidelines, practices, standards, and professional capabilities. However, more needs to be done on an organisational level for Saudi enterprises to enhance cybersecurity preparedness, said Dr Bin Ali.

“One of the biggest challenges that Saudi organisations face is moving to the cloud and protecting cloud infrastructure, especially in hybrid cloud environments that require simultaneous on-premise and cloud infrastructure protection. Organisations need a security solution made for the cloud, and that can protect the hybrid cloud environment,” Dr Bin Ali.

“Complex cloud migration can be a major flashpoint for cyberattacks. Among our 2019 predictions, our researchers predict that cloud misconfiguration during an organisation’s migration to the cloud can lead to more data breaches,” he added.

Participants develop their general business skills, technical skills, and soft skills by shadowing Trend Micro teams across multiple areas.


Trend Micro’s strategy is to strengthen the cybersecurity awareness and skillsets among young professionals, and groom the next wave of cybersecurity experts in the next few years, said Dr Bin Ali. “Our programs cover trends in the hottest technologies today, including cloud computing, virtualisation and datacentres, and networking essentials. This knowledge will jumpstart the career of graduates, and enable them to be ready for the current market demands.”

Trend Micro plans to expand the Graduate Academy across the Middle East and North Africa, including to Egypt and Jordan.

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