Mastercard and Dubai International Financial Centre Partner to Enhance Regional Cybersecurity Efforts

January 31, 2021 | Dubai, UAE

New “Cyber Forward” program to build secure digital ecosystems through public-private partnerships

Mastercard today launched its Global Cyber Forward program in partnership with Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading global financial center and largest fintech hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

Governments, financial institutions and businesses around the world have been facing an increase in cyber threats as people and businesses become more digitally connected. According to an industry study, the threat of direct and indirect cyberattacks on global businesses is significant, with up to $5.2 trillion in economic impact being at risk over the next 5 years[1]. Another study reported that 50 percent of global businesses are not prepared to deal with cyberattacks[2].

The Global Cyber Forward program combines Mastercard's cutting-edge capabilities in cyber security with those of leading public sector organizations to create secure digital ecosystems at a national, local and city-level. This partnership with DIFC will help boost cyber readiness and resilience across the financial industry, enabling effective cyber security oversight through the Dubai Financial Service Authority (DFSA) Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) that was launched in January 2020.

DIFC is home to over 2,500 financial related companies, including 17 of the world’s top 20 banks and over 240 FinTech and Innovation companies. DIFC continuously develops innovative laws and regulations enabling the future of finance. Earlier this year, it launched the first GDPR-compliant data protection laws and the most comprehensive money services regime in the region.

Commenting on the announcement, His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, said: “This global partnership between DIFC and Mastercard supports the National Cybersecurity Strategy and Dubai Cyber Security Strategy. As the leading financial center in the MEASA region, we are committed to being at the forefront of initiatives, including cyber security, that will advance the finance industry globally, regionally and in Dubai. Firms and individuals will be able to benefit from our collaborative approach to managing the issue and see Dubai as the region’s safest place to undertake their financial activities.”

Ajay Bhalla, President, Cyber and Intelligence, Mastercard said: “Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to consumer trust. Without trust we cannot do business – more so now than at any other time in history. We are developing and embedding the latest cyber technologies, in collaboration with our partners around the world, to help advance security and trust in the digital ecosystem. Our partnership with DIFC will help to create more secure and thriving digital economies.” 

“DIFC has the region’s most robust and resilient legal and regulatory framework. Our partnership with Mastercard recognizes the importance of cyber security and will help DIFC clients and the global finance industry accelerate their digital agendas safely and effectively. Collaborating with leading, like minded organization on cyber security is a key factor that will help us drive the future of finance,” said Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority.

“Knowledge sharing and access to secure, innovative technology are our best defense as we address the cyberthreats that lead to cybercrime. Our strategic partnership with DIFC is a significant milestone and one that sets a secure foundation for fostering a strong cyber-resilient ecosystem that inspires trust in the digital economy,” said Khalid Elgibali, Division President, Middle East and North Africa, Mastercard.

This program builds on other cross-industry partnerships, helping to boost cyber readiness and resilience across the financial industry. Last year, Mastercard introduced its first European Cyber Resilience Center to drive collaboration between the public and private sectors in addressing threats faced by the payments ecosystem. With support of the Canadian government, the company’s Intelligence and Cyber Center in Vancouver is designed to accelerate innovation in digital and cyber security, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

Learnings gained from this initial program will be applied across the globe through Mastercard programs and other public-private partnership efforts. Together, they will secure everyday transactions, while delivering even greater trust in every interaction through the continued application of emerging technologies.

DIFC continues to lead the MEASA region’s efforts to provide an enabling environment for innovative businesses that contribute to the development of the financial services and technology industries. The Center continues to strengthen and expand its value proposition as a global hub for the future of finance by building new capabilities and driving thought leadership in cyber security that will enable secure, digital business models, drive innovation and develop future economies in the region and beyond.


[1] Accenture Ninth Annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study, 2019

[2] Business Wire First Data Releases Cybersecurity Study 2018

Media Contacts

Rama Alsayegh, Mastercard
Tarek Kiwan , DIFC Authority

About DIFC

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a financial free zone in Dubai and the leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region with over 2,500 companies, over 240 FinTech firms, a community of over 25,000 employees and a market size of over USD 700 billion. DIFC is a well-established global platform for driving the future of finance and the development of regional economies. It was established to develop the economy of Dubai and make it a highly attractive environment for financial investments and an effective contributor to the future of the regional and international financial services industry. The DIFC reflects the UAE’s commitment to innovation and economic diversification. The Dubai International Financial Centre Authority (DIFCA) is the central government body engaged in operating the financial free zone and overseeing the strategic activities that range from infrastructure, development, financial management and client relations. The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is the independent regulator of financial services conducted in and from the DIFC. The DFSA's regulatory mandate covers asset management, banking and credit services, money services, venture capital, securities, collective investment funds, custody and trust services, commodities futures trading, Islamic finance, insurance, crowdfunding platforms, an international equities exchange and an international commodities derivatives exchange. In addition to regulating financial and ancillary services, the DFSA is responsible for administering Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) legislation that applies in the DIFC.

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.