Thinking more about cyber: How the North West Cyber Resilience Centre puts businesses at the heart of what we do

By Jared Thompson, Marketing Manager, North West Cyber Resilience Centre
21st October 2021

Over the last 18 months, we have seen a well-evidenced acceleration towards businesses working with a more hybrid model – and more entrepreneurs have starting businesses from their bedrooms during the pandemic.

We’ve worked remotely ourselves at the North West Cyber Resilience Centre - between March 2020 and July 2021 we worked remotely with online meetings, ran webinars and guested on virtual events with partners from across the region.

Whilst the current roadmap has seen more businesses move back into the office, for many, the risks of having to deal with a cyber incident are still when not if.

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The Greater Manchester Business Community

Since GCHQ decided to establish itself in Manchester, we have seen a clustering effect of cyber sector businesses taking space in Greater Manchester. Manchester is establishing itself as a leading European city for tech excellence.

The way the Cyber Resilience Centre works as part of the business community is that we’re working to ensure that businesses in the business community have an awareness of Cyber and the threat of cyber-enabled crime. We want to protect the 1000s of SME’s who are based here.

Alongside great projects like the GM Cyber Foundry, we know that cybercrime is estimated to cost the Greater Manchester economy £860million per year. We want to deliver security awareness training to encourage businesses to go away and put in place all the things we cover;

  • Having a secure backup of business-critical data

  • Keeping staff aware of the latest scams, phishing emails & more

  • Ensure their staff have strong passwords and they have enabled two-factor authentication

  • We want to effect a real behavioural impact amongst small businesses.

The changing landscape of working from home

With people working from home almost exclusively in the first half of 2020, criminals took advantage of the changing landscape for businesses. Criminals attacked those companies who were transitioning staff from office to working from home. They exploited vulnerabilities where devices had out of date software or updates, where staff had weak passwords or passwords that were repeated and didn’t have two-factor authentication enabled.

Online fraud moved away from other government scams we are used to seeing, such as with the HMRC. Cybercriminals instead focused their efforts on a variety of covid scams; the furlough scheme, business relief payments, covid testing kits, vaccine appointments and more recently with vaccine passports.

This year’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey from the DCMS showed that 39% of micro and small businesses have identified cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months.

The most common type of cyber attack for businesses, charities, schools and colleges is still phishing emails (of the 39% who identified any breaches or attacks, 83% had experienced phishing attacks). The impact of small businesses and their staff not being aware of what phishing scams look like or the links they shouldn’t click can mean that criminals gain access to; login credentials, payment information or the keys to a business’ network.

For the small businesses we work with, dealing with a cyber-attack doesn’t just mean a loss of reputation or the financial impact, it can see their business having shut their doors. This can then lead to the mental impact of losing a business they may have built and worked on for their whole life.

That’s why the Cyber Resilience Centre is so vital as part of the North West business community, we believe digital harm is real harm. We want to ensure every small business in the region has access to the knowledge, skills and tools to help protect themselves from online crime.

That’s why we signpost businesses to our free police and government-backed guidance and affordable services and membership. It’s why we’re pleased to offer businesses in Greater Manchester the opportunity to take advantage of our new fully-funded program of support.

A new fully-funded program of support for businesses in Greater Manchester

Our Business Resilience Program was ​​a reaction to seeing that during the pandemic we saw a 400% increase in reports of cyber fraud. Small businesses have found themselves at the greatest risk and without access to relevant, affordable and trusted support. This programme focuses on providing businesses with a better understanding of how to protect their businesses against online crime at a time when suffering an attack could mean the difference between their business staying open and closing down.

The programme offers businesses several cyber security policy & procedure templates, alongside a security awareness training session for their staff.

The Business Resilience programme is open to all Greater Manchester-based small businesses, a deep understanding of cyber security, online or digital technology is not needed.

This programme has been funded by the Asset Recovery Incentive Scheme, supported by Greater Manchester Police.

Businesses can register to join this program by submitting their details here.

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