The growing threat of cyber-crime has seen a unique Scottish group of ‘ethical hackers’ expand their ranks in a bid to help make Scottish businesses more resilient against online attacks.
In partnership with the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), the ethical hacking students offer innovative services and training to business leaders and their staff on how to best guard against online breaches as well as testing the boundaries of the security systems already in place.
Gerry Grant, project manager for the Ethical Hackers, said: “The term “hackers” understandably, gets a lot of bad press, as those with bad intentions attempt breaches against consumers, businesses and even governments.
“White hats or ethical hackers counter the role of the ‘bad-guys’ to find out where websites and networks could be vulnerable or open to attack. Then we advise on how these loopholes can be closed to give businesses the best chance to avoid being compromised.”
Gerry and the rest of the hackers team at SBRC have all been recruited from Abertay University’s Ethical Hacking and Cyber Security degree course.
After members of last year’s team graduated, the group has recruited several new members to create a six-strong team following an increase in demand for their services.
Last year the team delivered over 35 presentations to more than 200 businesses – this year they are having to manage a packed schedule of two presentation requests a week.
The number of businesses now asking SBRC for help to protect their websites and intranets has soared. This increase in numbers will come as welcome news to businesses across the country as Police Scotland have renewed warnings to the public following an increase in so-called ‘ransomware’ attacks.
Gerry said: “Ransomware is fast becoming one of the most common threats facing computer users today.
“Hackers will gain access to a computer by some means, by email phishing for instance, and encrypt all of the files on that machine. Once they’ve done so they can ransom your files back to you, threatening to delete them if you don’t cough up.”
Although common, it is a relatively simple process to make safeguards against this kind of targeted attack.
He added: “An outlay of only £40 or so for an external hard-drive can end up saving you upwards of £250 on ransomware.
“Encrypting all the information on your computer is essential to keeping your business safe – ensuring your files are regularly backed up to an external drive.”
Mandy Haeburn-Little, SBRC Director, said: “We’re delighted with how this programme has evolved, expanding to take on new hackers and reaching more businesses than ever before.
“It has been great to see the engagement between Scottish businesses and the some of best talent on offer helping to make working online more secure and resilient.
“The SBRC is eager to bring innovative ideas to Scottish businesses ensuring that they can take advantage of the technology and information at the forefront of crime prevention.”
SBRC is taking forward the scoping of the concept of a cyber hub for business in Scotland which would act as one trusted source of advice and cyber security services at an affordable cost.
Mandy added: “Bringing in students, who interact everyday with the newest practical and academic developments in their field, allows us to disseminate the most up-to-date and innovative security for businesses and their staff.”
Amongst the range of topics being discussed are social media policy, ransomware, password security and crisis readiness.
Businesses can register their interest in the ethical hackers services for business and the training programme by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the cyber assessment services, visit www.sbrc.co.uk.