Most at Risk

Fight to Cyber Criminals with Symposium for SMEs

Dr Simon ParkinsonHuddersfield (UK), January 2017 - Most firms will come under some form of cyber attack, risking loss of data and serious damage to their finances. Now, the University of Huddersfield is using its expertise in computer science to help ensure that companies in the region can thwart online crime.

In conjunction with a government-backed organisation, the University held a successful symposium named "Cyber Security: Addressing the threats for your business". Representatives of more than thirty companies from a variety of sectors came to hear a range of talks on aspects of an increasingly urgent topic.

The scene was set by co-organiser Dr Simon Parkinson, an informatics lecturer in the University’s School of Computing and Engineering, whose research includes the design of intelligent systems for cyber security. He provided statistics such as the fact that 74 per cent of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) have reported a security breach, at an average cost of £75,000 per incident.

The latest figures show a 144 per cent increase in successful cyber attacks on businesses. Small businesses are most at risk, and there is a serious shortage of people with the skills to counter the cyber threat. The University of Huddersfield will help address this issue by making cyber security modules a compulsory component of all computer science courses.

The UK government has announced an investment of £1.9 billion to keep the country’s cyberspace safe, and in addition to closing the skills gap, it also sees automation as a key part of the solution.

This is a key area of research at the University of Huddersfield for Dr Parkinson and his colleagues, who are developing solutions that are self-evolving and intelligent – "cyber-security software that doesn’t really require human expertise". In addition to its cyber- security research and teaching, the University of Huddersfield has also invested £200,000 in a Secure Societies Institute that has cyber crime as one of its priorities.

The aim is to share the University’s expertise by forming collaborations such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with firms. The advantage to companies is that they access the University’s multi-disciplinary expertise without incurring heavy research-and-development costs.

The Cyber Security Symposium included guest contributions from seven expert speakers representing firms, organisations, and authorities that ranged from multinational giant Cisco to Kirklees Council. There were also speakers from several companies based in the Kirklees area.

The symposium was organised in conjunction with the government-backed organisation Digital Catapult Centre Yorkshire, which shares a mission to reach out to SMEs. The day was absorbing and informative, said Dr Parkinson.

"We had some companies that had problems and some that had solutions. They passed on best-practice guidelines on how to address a cyber threat," he said.

"A lot of it is common sense, such as making sure your systems are up to date, but one thing that came out is that you should assume it is going to happen to you – not the opposite way around. Don’t brush it aside, thinking that it will never happen to me.  The statistics show that you will suffer some kind of cyber attack.  If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail," said Dr Parkinson.