Cyber security training to tackle rise in threats across county

By Tim Aldred

20 Feb 2024

Blackburn Lancaster Cyber Security

Blackburn College has teamed up with Lancaster University to deliver a series of free seminars to help SMEs better protect themselves against cyber threats.

The launch of the programme follows findings that Lancashire businesses are increasingly under attack, especially following news that the government's National Cyber Force Centre will open its headquarters in Samlesbury.

The seminars will teach SMEs about cyber vulnerabilities and how they can protect themselves from unwanted intrusion and attack whilst adding value to their business.

The first seminar, Cyber Fundamentals, is set to take place on Friday March 8 at Blackburn College’s new cybersecurity hub in its Industry Collaboration Zone, and is part of an 18-month programme of business support events across Lancashire and the North West.

Jon Lomas, cyber security partnership development manager at Lancaster University, said: "Identifying key points of vulnerability within a business is vital for securing your digital presence, yet it is often difficult to realise weaknesses. We talk businesses through how to identify those points, and how to change policy or implement new procedures to mitigate risk.

"Cyber Fundamentals aims to deliver impactful, effective and innovative knowledge exchange to businesses, delivering valuable insights into the opportunities, and potential risks, of the cybersecurity landscape in the North West Cyber Corridor."

Cyber Fundamentals is part of the larger Secure Digitalisation project, supported by Lancaster University’s Cyber Works programme, which enables knowledge exchange between businesses and the Cyber Security Research Centre.

Dr Rebecca Robinson is a programme lead from Lancaster University Research and Enterprise Services, and will be running the first session.

She said: “Lancashire has seen a huge threat increase since the news of the opening of the National Cyber Force Centre in Salmesbury, which put the region on the map, internationally.

“Phishing scams are generally the most prolific type of cyber-attack, but not always the most damaging for businesses in Lancashire. We are seeing a massive increase in the number of ransomware attacks that are targeting SMEs.

“It is estimated that there were five ransomware attacks on businesses in Lancashire in 2020, but that number jumped to five per week in 2021. Small and medium-sized businesses make up a huge percentage of the country’s business economy, and cybersecurity incidents are causing many to close.

“We‘re putting on a free talk that could save your business, or charity, and sessions are open to SMEs in the North West, especially those around Blackburn. We want to educate businesses about how to mitigate risk of cyberattack, which can only be done by explaining the impact of risk in real terms.”

Nicola Clayton, Blackburn College director of business development and external engagement, said: "With the NCF centre in Salmesbury, we have been investing in the area to upscale cybersecurity for SMEs.

“Blackburn with Darwen has had quite a big investment from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which we are using to deliver cybersecurity education and training for companies in the area, and Secure Digitalisation is part of that."

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