Scots innovation centre Censis and accountant Mazars connect to boost diversity in cyber security

Achieving greater diversity in cyber security to harness diverse perspectives is the aim of a new UK student-focused tie-up between Scottish innovation centre Censis and international accountancy firm Mazars.

In a pilot running this summer, Censis – Scotland’s innovation centre for sensors, imaging systems, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies – will welcome students who are part of the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberFirst programme to explore security around IoT (the connection of devices beyond, say, computers and smartphones, to the internet via embedded technology).

The venture aims to bring together students from a diverse range of backgrounds and undergraduate disciplines, and it will simulate practical, real-life IoT issues, while participants will also be asked to identify vulnerabilities in the system and areas that could be improved to prevent exposure to cyber threats.

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The students will participate in an ethical hacking exercise, using IoT technology designed by Censis engineers to better understand the vulnerability of systems to potential cyber attacks.

Censis and Mazars – an international audit, tax, and advisory firm whose Scottish presence comprises Edinburgh and Glasgow – say the demand for skilled cyber security professionals is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, particularly to meet new requirements for connected devices.

They highlight increasing global legislation, including the new Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill currently going through the UK Government’s review process.

The two collaborating organisations also cited a 2022 report by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport highlighting how more than half of UK businesses lack the skills to cover the basics of cyber security.

'Boosting diversity in cyber security is incredibly important as different paths into the sector inevitably bring a greater range of fresh ideas,' says Censis. Picture: Shutterstock.

Cade Wells, acting business development director at Censis, said: “Boosting diversity in cyber security is incredibly important as different paths into the sector inevitably bring a greater range of fresh ideas. Innovation is all about doing things differently, and we need a range of perspectives to feed into that.

"Our focus on cyber security and resilience in IoT is designed to support, rather than stifle, future technology developments, and cyber security will only become more important as legislation changes.

Informative

“The kit we’ll be using for the new initiative was designed for teaching purposes and we hope the programme will be both fun and informative for the students. It will be interesting to see how the skills already gained through the internships at Mazars influence the results of the hacking exercise.

"We hope that this workshop will be the first of many to support the CyberFirst initiative and wider diversity agenda across the sector, reducing the barriers to entry for under-represented groups.”

Sandeep Sharma, director of cyber security at Mazars, a client of Edinburgh-based venue-finding agency ExecSpace, added: “Cyber security testing, or ethical hacking, is often software-based, so it’s great to be able to give the students access to physical devices that will help them to develop important skills.

"IoT cyber security is sometimes considered an afterthought, and we have not encountered any other organisations delivering the type of learning experience that Censis can offer. As the students prepare to enter the sector after graduation, it’s important for us to give them access to a range of tools and skills to help them succeed in their chosen careers.”

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