In this episode we talk to the Director of the Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands region Superintendent Alison Hurst.
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Our hosts today were Patrick, a Detective and Cyber Protect officer Regional Cyber Crime Unit for the West Midlands (RCCUWM) part of the Regional Organised Crime Unit for the West Midlands (ROCUWM) and Demi the RCCUWM as an intern taking a year out from her University Studies.
Hello and welcome to the cyber threat weekly your podcast by the police delivering you non technical Cybersecurity Awareness. I'm Patrick a detective and cyber protect officer within the West Midlands regional cybercrime unit.
And I'm Demi, I work alongside Patrick on protect and also prevent.
Today we're gonna be speaking to Alison Hurst Superintendent within West Midlands Police who's currently working on the West Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre. You're very welcome, Alison, to cyber threat weekly, we'd love to hear about you and then I will talk about the Cyber Resilience Centre if thats okay.
Oh, lovely, and thank you very much for the very kind invitation. It's great to be here, thank you. So I'm Alison Hurst, and I'm a superintendent with 25 years policing experience for West Midlands Police. But as well as that I'm also the director of the West Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre, which is what I'd like to talk about today.
Thank you so much for joining us today. Would you mind explaining a little bit around what a Cyber Resilience Centre is for those who don't know?
Yes, absolutely, I'd be very happy to do that thank you. So the West Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre was launched in July of last year and it's actually part of a wider network of Resilience Centres (CRCS) that are being rolled out across the whole of the country in each region.
So the West Midlands was the fourth one to go live and the first one was established up in Scotland over nine years ago, so it is a tried and tested model. So the aim of the Resilience Centre is to protect businesses of all sizes from the threat of cybercrime. So that's through education, advice, but also through the provision of services.
So sadly, since the pandemic, we have seen an increase in cybercrime, and this is partly due to remote working. But actually, this emphasises why it's more important than ever, to have the appropriate resilience in place to prevent cybercrime and protect businesses. So the CRC provides businesses but particularly focuses on micro businesses and SMEs with affordable solutions to access cybersecurity. But not only that, we also raise awareness and also increased knowledge in this area.
So the CRC was set up as a not for profit company to harness the very best of partnership working between law enforcement, the private sector, the public sector, third sector and also the academic sector. So we are working together with this really unique and innovative partnership, which cuts across all sectors and represents all business interests, to protect businesses of all sizes, against cyber threats, and also cyber attacks.
What's really interesting this cyber environment, of course, is becoming more and more important in every area of our lives. So we're not going to get less technical and later on, you're going to get more and more over requirement within our lives. Why should businesses join the West Midlands CRC?
So there's many reasons why businesses should join. But it was recently reported by Accenture that 43% of small businesses have recorded a cyber attack in the last 12 months. So it's essential that businesses act when it comes to their cybersecurity as no business is too small for cyber criminals to target. So to a small business, or even to larger businesses, cyber security can often be thought of as scary and complicated, which sometimes leads to it being put on the back burner until a cyber incident occurs.
Or actually, it's not prioritised by some of the smaller businesses. As we all know the consequences of cybercrime can be quite catastrophic, so we are here to work with these businesses to help them build their Cyber Resilience and reduce their risk of falling victim to the most common types of cyber attacks. So in doing so, we offer a range of membership options, which are suited to the level of support businesses in the region including Staffordshire, West Midlands, West Mercia and Warwickshire may need.
So the good news is the core membership is free and it also protects businesses with access to a range of resources, including those from the National Cyber Security Centre, tools to help them identify their risks and vulnerabilities- but also it provides guidance on the steps they can take to increase their levels of protection.
That's brilliant, because I think it'll be music to a lot of people's ears when you hear the word free and there does seem to be a fair bit on offer from the CRC's for free.
Yeah, absolutely. So some of it is free, but some of it, we've got scaled membership options available and also the provision of services for students where we're collaborating with universities across the West Midlands, but also through our trusted partners.
Excellent, so, in your opinion, one of the most important aspects for SMEs to adopt in the fight against cybercrime?
So sometimes it's the smallest actions that can have the biggest effect and it's no different really when it comes to getting the basics right in cyber security. So there are many small steps businesses can take to help protect themselves from the most common cyber threats but also, they're really quite small and basic steps to take.
So, for example, keeping systems and software up today, making passwords as secure as possible, ensuring that your backup information and data regularly training employees so they are clued up on how to be cyber secure, and are able to spot suspicious activity, and also to strive to achieve cyber essential certification. This is a great low cost solution to help you to ascertain your current level of cyber security and we have actually got trusty partners through the CRC that are able to provide this service.
Well that's excellent, because cyber essentials I think is quite relevant and important here because I remember reading something about cyber essentials, and the whole reason they got created and they're the five key control measures is because they found that 84% of the data breaches was as a result of five key vulnerability areas that overlap or cyber essentials is ideal.
Yeah, so we've partnered together with people that actually we trust to provide this service. So it's nice for us to be able to signpost businesses to somebody that's trusted to be able to provide this.
The CRC seems like a very useful tool for businesses. And I can tell from the way you're talking about it that it seems like you're quite passionate. So I'm just curious as the leader of the CRC- what are some of your ambitions for the centre?
So I'm really really excited to be leading such an innovative partnership in the fight against cybercrime. You know, I'm really privileged to be leading such a, you know, unique initiative, the increasing remote working and as I touched upon earlier, over the last few months has seen an increase in cyber attacks or businesses, which is further demonstrated the need for this partnership approach between policeing, private and the academic sector.
We always need to be working slightly differently to try and reduce these risks. So I see that my role as a director and lead of the CRC, I am extremely passionate about reaching out and working with those smaller businesses who might not even know they need our help. So an example of this in the West Midlands, it's a vast region encompasses the UK second largest city, but also spans many rural geographic areas. So within these farming and agricultural businesses might not be the first area you think of when it comes to a cyber attack. But the Food Network, as we know, is a critical and complex network that utilises a diverse range of digital technologies. We know that securing farms poses some unique challenges but as the majority of farms a family owned or ran a small or micro businesses. We know we need to help them work with those businesses to become more cyber resilient, moving forwards, and we need to be able to provide that adequate support and knowledge and information in order to do that.
So our main ambition moving forwards is to get as many West Midlands businesses signed up to our membership as possible, really. So we can help the region become an area which is much more difficult for cyber criminals to succeed and prosper in. So if you are interested in becoming more cyber resilience, and protecting yourself as a business, what I would advise you to do is to visit our website at www.wmcrc.co.uk and actually in the first couple of seconds of accessing that website, there'll be an opportunity to sign up to our free core membership, which will then entitle you to a one to one session with our innovation manager and also access to all the free core services and advice that is availble.
And it's very much a case of nothing to lose and quite a lot to gain, I would suggest.
Absolutely, there's absolutely nothing to lose but everything to gain.
We'll certainly plaster the links and any other items that you want to highlight in our Show Notes for this episode.
Fabulous. Well, thank you very much both for having me today. It's been really fantastic to come along and speak and also raise awareness of the West Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre and the opportunities that are available to businesses across the West Midlands. Thank you.
Thank you very much. Very grateful for you taking some time out of your busy day to be with us today.
Thank you so much for joining us. It was a very insightful.
Fabulous thank you both.
So that's all we got time for this week. For more information on cybersecurity, please visit the National Cyber Security Centre, Action Fraud, Cyber Aware and Take Five websites. Don't forget we have our own website at wmcyber.org. If anybody listening to this would like to contact us for any guidance and education in the area of cybersecurity, how to protect and prepare yourself and your organisation whilst online please use the contact details in our show notes. Thank you and goodbye.