A new disruptive force in cybersecurity

February 3, 2021

As COVID-19 continues to increase our reliance on technology, cybersecurity has never been more important. With the vast majority of businesses having switched to home working, and students across the education spectrum learning remotely, the need to protect against data breaches and ransomware attacks has been brought right to the fore. Newcastle-based Melius Cyber is spearheading the response, with its MELCaaS scanning and vulnerability monitoring tool providing vital support to businesses of all sizes. Steven Hugill finds out more.

www.meliuscyber.com
@MeliusCyber

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted us to find answers to questions we perhaps never previously thought relevant.

What are the secrets to successful home working?

How do we combine meetings and deadlines with home schooling?

How do we occupy the spaces once filled by social events and family gatherings?

When will our lives return to a sense of normality?

There is, though, another significant question that requires an answer; how do we ensure our data and software is protected?

In a COVID-19 world, where home working has become de rigueur, latest figures show the mass decamping from offices to kitchen tables and back bedrooms has considerably increased the average potential total outlay associated with a hacking incident to around $4 million (£2.9 million) [1].

Faced with such a landscape, a good place to start assessing the question around online security is Melius Cyber.

Part of the Newcastle-based consultancy Melius Group, it provides clients with technology solutions that deliver value, accelerate business growth and support entry into new markets.

The key weapon within its arsenal is MELCaaS, an industry-leading, bespoke cybersecurity scanning and vulnerability monitoring tool.

Constantly scrutinising networks, email accounts and passwords for threats, MELCaaS provides real- time updates on security performance and potential breaches, acting within minutes to alert clients to system violations.

From daily scanning and reporting, to password testing, patch and antivirus monitoring and simulated phishing attacks, it provides, says, chief commercial officer Eldon Jobe, information that can be quickly turned into meaningful priorities for businesses.

“There are currently two types of organisations, those who know they have been hacked and those who haven’t figured it out yet! All companies (SMEs included) need to work on the principle of when they will be hacked, not if.

“There are lots of tools available to help prevent a breach, although you must understand – nothing will actually stop a breach – the best these tools will do is make it harder for a hacker. However, there is little – if anything – to identify if you have been breached,” he says.

“We specialise in reducing the time taken to identify if a business has been hacked.

“The average time it takes for a threat to be detected on a network is a scary 229 days.

“The job of MELCaaS is to reduce that time down to 24 hours – or even one hour.

“Since it will happen sooner or later, the only true control a business has is how it reacts once it has been breached. We implement a Cyber Resilience plan, resolve threats and vulnerabilities and put actions in place to minimise the damage.

“We founded Melius to be a disruptive force in the marketplace and look after everyone’s cyber needs from a 360-degree point of view, and MELCaaS does exactly that.

“It puts people in the picture in plain English and provides a report of historic changes so users immediately notice anything that looks different.

“It also delivers a score – a bit like a credit score – that highlights actions taken and future steps needed to improve security on a month-by-month basis.”

Such ability is supported by Melius’ access to top level global data trends, which aid its understanding of hacking and ransomware practices, and put it in a strong position to proactively deal with threats.

“MELCaaS is continuously running 24/7, 365 days a year, searching for 180,000 known vulnerabilities, including zero-day vulnerabilities,” reveals chief information officer David McPherson.

“We tap into data released by international cybersecurity providers and monitor behavioural changes and unusual patterns, which means we are able to inform people of them within 24 or 48 hours – though sometimes it can be immediate.

“We also work with the National Innovation Centre for Data and Cyber North to ensure we are right up-to- date with the cybersecurity culture of the North East too,” adds David, whose CV includes a cyber security role at the Bank of England and time running Northern Electric’s data centre.

A key area where Melius’ strengths are increasingly coming to the fore is the business landscape, and in particular, where COVID-19 has dramatically altered working patterns, the SME market.

“People are becoming more aware of cyber-crime,” says Eldon.

“But SMEs who have an IT support team and therefore think they’re looking after the situation actually aren’t, because those teams are not cyber specialists.

“Smaller firms can be so devastated by a cyber- attack or ransomware demand that it takes them out of business, and we want to use our experience, innovation and skills for their benefit.”

“The SME market is not presently cared for,” continues chief financial officer Richard Brown.

“The larger organisations can afford support teams to help protect themselves – though it doesn’t necessarily mean they are immune from attack – but SMEs don’t have such luxury.

“We are able to provide such a service, however, and are almost like security guards patrolling a perimeter fence – if there is a hole, we find it and alert the client immediately,” says Richard, who earlier in his career worked in corporate finance with PwC.

He adds: “There is not a business out there that does not need this service.”

Melius’ commitment to SMEs, has, says David, markedly increased over the last year, and particularly since January amid England’s third coronavirus lockdown.

“We are able to use our years of enterprise level cyber security experience and project delivery, and provide this level of expertise for SMEs at a price they can afford.

“A lot of firms are no longer thinking about when they will return to the office – people have pivoted away from that,” he says.

“In an office, you had a firewall and could identify who was on the network – but working from home is very different, and people must therefore be vigilant against cyber-crime.”

However, Richard says such watchfulness must not be confined to the business environment, revealing Melius is part of an education framework to instil awareness from a young age.

He says: “Showing more people how to correctly download files and watch content online will make a significant difference.

“A good example are schools.

“If a child watches something on the internet on their phone at home and then brings that into the classroom and connects to the IT system, whatever they might have inadvertently downloaded could end up on the network.”

With such strong foundations in place, and the demand for cybersecurity continuing to rise, Melius – whose six-strong team includes two graduates – has ambitions to grow its North East workforce in the coming years and look to international expansion.

“We want to become a strong employer in this region,” says Eldon.

“Over the next two years, we expect to hire a further 30 people. We are naturally working across the North East first, but we see a lot of future revenue coming from across the country, particularly the south and London.

“We also have a strategy to expand into the USA and Australia.

“The revenues we earn will be put back into the business here because we are committed to boosting the economy of the North East.”

Reference [1]: IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020 –
https://www.ibm.com/security/digital-assets/cost-data-breach-report/#/pdf

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