The South West Cyber Resilience Centre (SWCRC) has just announced a partnership with UWE to work with students with expertise in ethical hacking and cyber security. ‘Our role at the SWCRC is to support smaller businesses and charities to strengthen their cyber resilience and to make this support either free, or very accessible and affordable,’ explains Mark Moore, Director at SWCRC and a serving police superintendent with Devon and Cornwall Police. ‘One service we’ve been keen to offer is ethical hacking, and working with students means we get the relevant levels of expertise at an affordable cost. We pay the students for the levels of work they commit to, and they get to deploy their skills in a business setting, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.’
Ethical hacking involves the testing of an IT system with the knowledge and permission of its owner so that the strengths and weaknesses of the system are exposed and tested. It’s a widely used technique employed by multi-national organisations to find the vulnerabilities of their cyber security but it’s harder for small organisations to tap into, due to resource shortages and the costs involved. ‘We have a skills shortage in cyber security and this partnership with Student Services means that we can develop and nurture talented individuals who already understand ethical hacking and are keen to help. At the same time, businesses get more information about the risks they face and what they need to do to improve resilience,’ added Mr Moore. ‘Once they have our report and understand the findings, they can make their own decisions about what steps to take and who to use to do that. The SWCRC is a not-for-profit, so all we do then is signpost businesses towards our trusted partners and resources we know will help them.’
A recent survey by SWCRC showed that smaller business owners are wary of committing to cyber security because they fear unexpected costs in upgrading systems and software licenses. Employing SWCRC Student Services means that business owners benefit from impartial advice which they can trust.
"At UWE we are keen to support our students through academic study but also more broadly to think about their future employability and skills development. Working with the Cyber Resilience Centre has been a perfect opportunity for our students - they get to put their academic skills to the test to help secure industry partners in the region within a supportive environment, to gain the valuable experience that prospective employers will be looking for". Commented Dr Phil Legg, Associate Professor in Cyber Security at UWE.
‘By employing our Student Services, businesses are helping develop the UK’s cyber security talent pool. They are also taking an important step in protecting themselves from cyber criminals who are operating at unprecedented levels. Our students are guided and supervised by senior cyber security experts and have access to the latest and most sophisticated knowledge. The information we can provide back to businesses means that managers can take informed decisions about investment in cyber security based on impartial reporting,’ explained Ross Brown, the centre’s lead on cyber and innovation.
Student Services on offer include testing the resilience of an organisation’s website, and its internal and external systems. But they also include continuity planning advice, bespoke staff training, and research into potentially-compromising information that’s out there about businesses and their staff. SWCRC is looking to bolster its pool of trained student talent in the coming months, but is already able to provide its services as part of its Home Office-funded model. To find out more, please go to www.swcrc.co.uk/services .
The SWCRC is a police-led, not-for-profit organisation which helps small and medium-sized businesses in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol and Gloucestershire build and improve cyber resilience maturity, with accessible support and guidance available through free core membership.
Members are steered in the right direction with simple and practical resources, toolkits and regular cyber updates, with the option of affordable services for more technical security investigations.