When it comes to leading on all fronts, the UAE seems way up there. Only the other day Wikipedia founder told Friday magazine that companies should be more concerned about protecting themselves online than they are at present. Now comes the news that the UAE government has leapfrogged European countries in cybersecurity preparedness, protecting the country’s critical national infrastructure in the face of growing cyber threats.

In the United Nations International Telecommunications Union’s most recent ‘Global Cybersecurity Index that was released today, the UAE ranks 17th in the world, ahead of countries such as Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. The index measures cybersecurity aspects such as legislation, regulation and compliance, capacity building, and international cooperation.

‘The UAEs’ impressive ranking demonstrates the effectiveness of the National Electronic Security Authority’s cybersecurity outreach, and that the UAE government is one of the most innovative countries in the world in prioritizing cybersecurity,” said Savitha Bhaskar, COO of IT consultancy and cybersecurity experts Condo Protego.

Symantec’s most recent ‘Internet Security Threat Report’ states that 83 per cent of large companies were targeted with spear-phishing attacks, 60 per cent of targeted attacks striking small- and medium-sized organizations, while malware and ransomware attacks continue to grow worldwide.

Confronted with increasingly complex cybersecurity attacks, the UAE National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) announced the National Cyber Security Program in 2014 to create a secure national digital environment. Government agencies were required to report on their cybersecurity infrastructure. It also gave NESA the power to audit government agencies’ cybersecurity systems, commission cyber-security tests, and intervene to strengthen systems.

But while the government agencies have secured themselves, the UAE’s private sector organizations must catch up to federal standards, says Condo Protego. The European Union, for example, recently required Internet service providers, online retailers, and search engines to declare cybersecurity breaches.

‘UAE’s private sector organizations cannot wait until they have been breached to deploy cybersecurity solutions,’ said Savitha.