Mandy Haeburn-Little: Business needs cyber-security experts

What if your day started with a cyber forecast as well as a weather forecast?
It makes business sense for companies to invest in cyber security. Picture: David MoirIt makes business sense for companies to invest in cyber security. Picture: David Moir
It makes business sense for companies to invest in cyber security. Picture: David Moir

Imagine leaving the house, or setting out on a journey knowing what threat was highest on social media, or the likelihood of someone attempting to access personal information on your smartphone.

Say you were as well informed about the next cyber threat likely to hit you as the likelihood of needing an umbrella? Or if you could give employees the gift of knowing they will be safer online at work and at home?

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Sound a long way off? In fact, Scotland’s academic institutions are currently producing ­genuinely excellent cyber ­security apprentices and ­graduates to help us predict and learn from these things.

But where are they?

As we start the new ­financial year, how many of us have thought ahead to where we might need growth or recruitment? And from that recruitment, how many have planned for cyber apprentices or graduates in that projection?

Too difficult or costly? It ­actually makes a lot of sense.

The reality is we have ­outstanding talent coming through in Scotland and a growing and important cyber security community of around 60 security businesses, and yet that talent is being drawn south.

The truth is, Scotland has ­created a skills marketplace but isn’t benefiting from it.

We are now 651 days away from new legislation (GDPR) coming in around the storage and control of personal data in business. No one likes a countdown calendar, but the reality is this will impact on all business, and so basic levels of security including Cyber Essentials are fundamental. They’re something we should be encouraging business to ­consider. An apprentice or a graduate is an ideal start for smaller businesses.

At the recent Scottish Cyber Awards, five of the 11 titles went to universities or their staff – a credit to the exceptional work they are doing.

Great strides are also now being made beyond universities and into schools, with cybersecurity now included in the syllabus – an initial ­success of the skills work being undertaken under the Scottish Government Cyber Strategy.

Yet for all that groundwork the ‘brain drain’ persists – as Scotland only provides one in 50 UK cyber security roles.

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These students could play a lead role in the next chapter of Scotland’s growing cyber community and in turn become an attraction to new and relocating ­business. Let’s not stand back and watch them go. We should meet their ambition for opportunity and drive forward with Scotland’s ambitions for leadership in this vital area.

The one thing business could do would be to think about investing in these new apprentices and cyber-security experts, even for an initial year. Their value to the ­business will only increase.

This action alone could ­significantly improve our cyber defences.

Mandy Haeburn-Little is CEO of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre.