Making the North East a centre for excellence

April 24, 2020


The value of strong cyber security has never been higher as increasing numbers of hackers – intent on stealing information or holding companies to ransom – cause exponential damage. Here, Phil Jackman, Dynamo vice-chair, and fellow cluster member Steve Hood, reveal why the North East is primed to play a key role in the fight as an internationally recognised centre of excellence for cyber security

Cyber-crime has grave consequences. Hackers’ activity delivers severe – and often long-lasting – repercussions, from companies losing vital data, money and intellectual property, to individuals mined for their personal and financial details. Studies show online criminals cost the world’s economy trillions of pounds.

But, says Phil Jackman, Dynamo director, vice chair and lead member for CyberNorth Cluster, the overt dangers also present tangible opportunities for the North East’s thriving technology sector.

He says: The CyberNorth cluster is working to bolster the region’s cyber security ecosystem and has all the attributes it needs – experience, skills and connectivity – to stand at the vanguard of global online protection.

“But every threat is an opportunity; it is a $5 trillion annual spend opportunity and we are well placed to take advantage. We want a piece of that action,” he adds.

Phil, who was IT director of Durham County Council, says a significant element in ensuring the North East does seize such an opening will be the CyberNorth cluster.

The cluster is focused on making the region a centre of excellence in the delivery of cyber-related services.

It looks to highlight the region’s position as a frontrunner in cyber awareness and infrastructural resilience by helping develop the workforces of today and tomorrow.

“We are working to grow the industry across the region to position it as a great place to do cyber security business,” says Phil.

“We are working to grow jobs – highly-skilled, well-paid and interesting jobs.”

To achieve its goals, the cluster takes a multi-pronged approach that includes events such as #CyberFest, which stands as the region’s largest cyber event. It is also developing a mechanism to support existing businesses’ growth in a collaborative yet competitive framework, and helping create new organisations by developing a region-wide cyber innovation centre, on the lines of the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA).

Phil says: “2019 was a great year for CyberNorth.

“We held events nearly every month, including ten in #CyberFest alone, with diverse locations, from Alnwick to Middlesbrough, and diverse topics, from the technical to ethics and advance manufacturing.

“We worked with partner organisations such as The International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2) and The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), enthused schoolchildren to consider cyber security as a career and engaged the Government through the National Cyber Security Centre and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport,” continues Phil.

“2020 is going to be even better for CyberNorth.”

He adds: “The North East has a vibrant cyber security community, with more than 50 active companies in the field.

“There are organisations who can help businesses with everything from advice and guidance, to penetration testing and recovery.

“Opportunity exists across the globe to sell products and services. Phil’s positivity is echoed by fellow cluster member Steve Hood, who says the group stands as a vital support aid for aspiring companies.

“I see CyberNorth’s primary goal as the de facto place where the region’s businesses can get the impartial cyber help and advice they need,” says Steve.

“How do our business leaders take the most risk-averse decisions on investing in the right cyber security approach, when their day-to-day duties mean their knowledge, time and resources are overstretched?

CyberNorth could – and should – be a place where they can turn for help,” continues Steve, who is also client services manager at NTE Limited.

Citing the necessity of choosing an appropriate cyber security product in a crowded market, Steve says one of the Cluster’s key strengths is its ability to help companies take informed action.

“Many organisations just don’t have the time or resource in-house to evaluate all the options,” says Steve. “We know technical jargon can be intimidating and that cybersecurity can be a minefield, which can be very tricky to navigate without the right support.

“A big part of CyberNorth’s mission is to help businesses simplify the cyber security landscape, by focusing on their required outcomes and budgets,” he continues. “This means they are better equipped to tackle challenges cost-effectively, and with confidence that they are receiving clear advice.”

Steve says such work is enabled by bringing together the region’s best cyber security talent.

“Technology alone will not stop a cyber-attack,” adds Steve, “which is where process and people come into the equation. “Companies must implement robust business processes and train their staff.

“The key to delivering this for the region is through working closely with like-minded, innovative organisations that focus on and deliver the solution components.

Just as small and medium-sized businesses want to work with organisations that understand their outcomes, we at CyberNorth do the same.”

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