Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar would benefit from a well-built cybersecurity system, which could help lead to reduced costs and increased growth rate, among other advantages, a Doha-based industry expert has said.

Many SMEs were caught unaware of the impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on the businesses community, especially when government’s worldwide called for a temporary shutdown of business operations, except for essential establishments, such as restaurants and hypermarkets, as well as other similar services.

Entrepreneurs from different sectors have also ramped up their online presence to keep up with the trends in the e-commerce industry; such initiatives include virtual tours, digital marketing, and e-shopping.

“Basically, all SMEs already communicate with their suppliers and clients via e-mail and promote their companies through their respective websites. In fact, I consider this as an advanced step taken towards digitisation,” said Dr Salah A Rustum, the chairman and president of cybersecurity solutions provider CIELTECH.

But Rustum said SMEs still need to get a “clearer idea” of how cybersecurity plays a role in business operations, such as reduction in costs and increased growth rate. He noted that some SMEs “are neglecting to take precautionary security measures to safeguard their interests.”

“I most certainly encourage all SMEs in Qatar to prepare a budget for a five-year plan to transform their companies gradually without taking any unnecessary escalating steps but applying the right security measures for every plan,” Rustum told Gulf Times.

“Because, if SMEs do not tackle the cybersecurity issue in their digitalisation journey, the counter effect shall be detrimental and failing to reap the expected growth and income, but instead suffer from hacking, sniffing, phishing, and spoofing, among other scams,” he continued.

As people around the world turn to technology to meet their basic day-to-day needs, Rustum said cybersecurity plays a crucial role during this period. Similarly, this applies to the business community, as well, he said.

“I feel that the Covid-19 pandemic has opened a new door of doing business not only in Qatar but worldwide. However, I regret to highlight that cybersecurity as such did not play any role in the transformation of some businesses.

“The issue is that some companies are still depending more on the exchange of regular email without taking into consideration the safety of the data transmitted online,” said Rustum, citing many cases of hacking, phishing, and other fraudulent activities happening over the Internet.

Rustum stressed the importance of maintaining secured connections and the use of the Qualified Electronic Digital Signature (QEDS), “which is already mandated in Qatar.”

“The QEDS is equal to the handwritten signature. Unfortunately, some organisations are still not taking advantage of it. Doing so means having safeguarded distant electronic businesses, authenticated users, and encrypted content for sensitive information,” Rustum said.

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