By: Amr Alashaal, Regional Vice President – Middle East at A10 Networks
Priorities have changed since 2021 when A10 Networks first surveyed communication service providers (CSPs) to better understand their priorities and requirements coming out of the pandemic. In 2023, the world is now a very altered place, and while the pandemic is largely over, this challenge has been superseded by geopolitical and economic uncertainty on an equally global scale.
Undoubtedly, connectivity played a vital role in keeping the wheels of society and business turning during the pandemic – what would we have done without our video calls and the internet? But it is equally, if not more, essential in today’s uncertain world that CSPs continue to play an important role in keeping society connected.
Prioritising cyber hygiene
Over the last couple of years, cyber hygiene has come a long way, particularly during and just after the pandemic. When our report delved into security investments back in 2021, we found that most CSPs focused on basic security upgrades, such as firewalls. This year, however, our survey respondents are aiming for a more mature, multi-layered, and defence-in-depth approach.
Our 2023 survey: Global Communication Service Providers – Market Growth Fuels Security Investments, shows that the percentage investment prioritising firewalls dropped from 48% in 2021 to 28% in 2023. Beyond firewalls, other investments were cited such as DDoS detection and monitoring, DDoS cloud scrubbing, automation of security policies, and investment in ransomware and malware protection services. These were all deemed of equal importance to firewalls, while there was also considerable interest in simplifying and integrating disparate point solutions. This suggests that the security purchases prompted by pandemic urgency now need to be rationalised.
Sustained growth in network security
While the pandemic surge has passed, we found that surveyed professionals are still predicting sustained growth at a considerable rate, with the average global growth in traffic volumes over the coming two years expected to be around 58% worldwide. Likewise, investment in network security is also strong. In fact, all but two respondents out of 2,750 senior IT professionals said they are investing in network security in the coming two to three years. This is not surprising as the number of DDoS weapons used to launch attacks that have been tracked by A10 through 2022 was estimated at 15 million, and Microsoft’s 2022 Defence report showed an average of 1,955 attacks per day, up 40% year-on-year in 2022.
Downtime costs money. Therefore, for CSPs, maintaining reliable services is essential. To this point, maintaining quality services and avoiding outages were among the top-three business challenges perceived by this year’s survey respondents as they evolve and expand their services and infrastructure in an increasingly complex digital environment.
The evolving cybersecurity environment presents challenges
Survey respondents identified a range of challenges, arising from both the prevailing cybersecurity environment and external macroeconomic factors, as their networks evolve to new technologies and architectures. Of greatest concern for most CSPs is the increased risk generated by exposed APIs. This, combined with supply chain challenges that have been widespread in the past three years, and maintaining quality service to avoid service outages, were cited as the top-three challenges.
Right now, CSPs are at a crucial point as they aim to capitalise on demand and seize opportunities to grow. This means they need to scale their networks while also protecting them, which is why network security is so critical to their ongoing success, especially if they are to effectively manage the increase in subscribers, devices, and applications to meet their growth plans.
To do this effectively, we recommend that they work with trusted security partners to protect and scale their networks. They should also look at how they can supersede legacy systems and deploy new technologies such as AI, machine learning, threat intelligence, and other capabilities that are a match for the growing threat levels in networks today. Of equal importance is how they can leverage automation to simplify management, improve control over network resources, and guarantee uptime while gaining full visibility into all their network traffic.
Demand shows no signs of slowing down
For CSPs, the growing traffic demand shows no signs of abating, even in today’s volatile market. According to industry analysis the global telecom services market size was valued at USD 1,805.61 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% from 2023 to 2030.
That said, the next year looks set to be a bumpy one for many global markets, and CSPs will not be entirely insulated from the volatility. To offset this, businesses are looking to step up innovation and digital transformation. This makes network security even more important, and CSPs must take all appropriate steps to secure themselves from both cyberattacks and turbulent market conditions. Network security will be critically important when it comes to ensuring that a business is truly robust and ready for the future.