Lancaster University helps provide next generation cybersecurity training for businesses across the region

Businesses across Lancashire are at greater risk from online criminals than ever before, according to cybersecurity experts.
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Experts led by Lancaster University are warning small and medium enterprises across Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cumbria that they are facing a huge wave of intensive cybersecurity attacks from web criminals.

Now Blackburn College is collaborating with Lancaster University to bring a series of free seminars to SMEs across the region to learn about cyber vulnerabilities and how they can protect themselves from unwanted intrusion and attack whilst adding value to their business.

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

Ncola Clayton from Blackburn College, Jon Lomas from Lancaster University, and business owner Lisa Edge.Ncola Clayton from Blackburn College, Jon Lomas from Lancaster University, and business owner Lisa Edge.
Ncola Clayton from Blackburn College, Jon Lomas from Lancaster University, and business owner Lisa Edge.

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 of Manchester to Preston.”

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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.

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“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.

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“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.”

Attendees at the free event will be given expert advice and be recommended simple tools and processes that will help reduce risk.

Lancaster University School of Computing and Communications is at the forefront of a number of ground-breaking cybersecurity initiatives, aimed at educating and supporting businesses and charities, through a mixture of face-to-face workshops, online resources, advice and guidance.

Blackburn College has partnered with Lancaster University to deliver cyber and networking BSc degrees, and has the coveted CyberFirst Gold accreditation, for their commitment and dedication to delivering

excellence in cybersecurity education.

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Cyber Fundamentals is an additional step in the Secure Digitalisation programme, which goes into more detail and allows businesses to get Cyber Essentials accreditation from the National Cyber Force Centre, proving they have knowledge of cybersecurity issues and have principles in place for standard practice scaling.

Blackburn College Director of Business Development and External Engagement Nicola Clayton 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.”

Lisa Edge is the CEO of GB Shared, a business networking portal which has just launched nationwide after seeing great success in the north eest.

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She took part in the full Secure Digitalisation programme and credits it with giving her the security knowledge to expand her business, and leading to her winning a covered Women in Innovation Award last year.

Lisa said: “Thanks to Secure Digitalisation, I am totally up to speed in cyber essentials. I would have been lost without Lancaster University, because it’s such a complex topic, I wouldn’t have known where to start.

“After the course, I qualified for the technical advancement, which allowed us to create a digital dashboard prototype.

“The knowledge gained allowed us to test and challenge our business model before going national, which was instrumental for me winning the Women in Innovation Award, as well as our national roll out.”

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The project as a whole aims to help 120 businesses and charities for free, through a mixture of face-to-face workshops, online resources, advice and

The Cyber Fundamentals initiative is funded from a Shared Prosperity Fund, from the DLUHC, made to Blackburn with Darwen Council, with the entire programme being delivered at Blackburn College’s new cybersecurity hub, by Lancaster University School of Computing and Communications.

As the closest college to the new National Cyber Force Centre, opening in Salmesbury, Preston, Blackburn College is best placed to host these free training seminars, which will provide Lancashire businesses with huge support to embrace cyber practices and capitalise on the opportunity to share in the economic prosperity that such an important centre will bring to the region.