Agencies collaborate to launch cyber security for SMEs

Andy Beaden, left, and Steven Fry

A new cyber security service is being launched aimed at SMEs.

HOST, the Home of Skills & Technology at Media City, in partnership with Salford City Council, is bringing to market a unique Security Operations Centre (SOC), which will offer an affordable cyber security subscription-based support service for firms innovating and adopting digital and cloud technologies.

As part of this, it is partnering with the Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester (CRCGM) to offer Cyber MOTs, which will include security awareness training and a cyber security assessment.

The Cyber MOTs will be fully funded and initially available to businesses based in Salford. The package will also offer exclusive membership to businesses based or located near Media City.

The MOTs will help scaling businesses and their teams to understand the risks of cyber crime and identify and prevent potential security issues through a comprehensive assessment, with recommendations on how to integrate security best practice.

HOST SOC is also partnering with Siemens to support manufacturing and engineering businesses with an Industrial Cyber MOT, offered exclusively to SME manufacturers that are members of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce as part of their membership benefits.

This follows the Government’s recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey, which found that nearly four in 10 businesses (39%) have reported a cyber attack, while the average cost to companies that have been hit by cyber attacks in the past 12 months is estimated to be £8,460.

All businesses are at risk of hidden cyber security breaches and with organisations finding it harder to monitor employees working from home during the pandemic, they may be less aware of the attacks their staff are facing.

In response to this demand, HOST is developing a state-of-the-art innovation lab, which will house the 24/7 SOC and Network Operations Centre (NOC) cyber support as a service. The centre will provide public sector organisations, enterprises and SMEs with a secure, tailored and scalable cyber solution.

HOST has also partnered with Lancaster University to develop collaborative activities to accelerate research, development and innovation with start-ups and SMEs through Innovate UK programmes such as the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) scheme.

The HOST SOC is unique as it comprises a Cyber Innovation Exchange, an open-source technology exchange that will also include a Cyber Innovation Sandbox, allowing for HOST’s incubated start-ups to accelerate and validate their IP across a real world commercial environment.

In the coming months, HOST will start to recruit up to 10 start-ups and scale-ups, looking to rapidly develop and commercialise disruptive cyber security solutions with AI and machine-learning capabilities.

Saskia Coplans, director of innovation for cyber, data science and AI at HOST, said: “I’m excited to work with HOST to shape an environment that puts innovation at the heart of acceleration. By bringing together business growth support, labs, testing and validation environments, access to training data along with input and oversight from leading academics and commercial specialists, we will offer first rate support for the next generation of intelligent cyber solutions.”

The HOST SOC and Cyber Innovation Exchange working with GCHQ and leading technology partners such as Microsoft, will further enhance Greater Manchester’s capability of making the UK a world leading security power through scalable innovation.

HOST, operated by IN4.0 Group, recently announced its partnership with The Raytheon Cyber Academy operating within the Skills City campus. HOST will also deliver the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) CyberFirst programme, inspiring girls at secondary schools to pursue careers in STEM. HOST also provides an eight-week placement for CyberFirst bursary students.

Andy Beaden, co-founder of IN4.0 Group, said: “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with the Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester to help businesses in the region gain confidence in knowing that their operations have been thoroughly assessed for cyber threats, so they can take the appropriate actions to secure their business.

“Our Security Operations Centre is a perfect illustration of how public and private partnerships can forge a formidable infrastructure to support organisations to drive innovation and productivity, creating highly skilled jobs for local people.”

Neil Jones, director of the Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester, said “The cybercrime threat to SMEs has never been greater, with cybercriminals taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out damaging attacks on businesses of all sizes as they increasingly work online. Working in partnership is in our DNA and helps us provide trusted, government-backed, easily accessible and practical support where it’s most needed.”

Steven Fry, chief digital officer at Salford City Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have brought this collective together at HOST Salford to bring our knowledge and expertise to Salford businesses, creating new jobs and solutions to help shape the future of the country’s cyber defence.”

The CRCGM is a not-for-profit joint venture between Greater Manchester Police and Manchester Digital that helps to support and protect small businesses from the threat of cybercrime, which is estimated to cost the local economy more than £860m a year.