Give Scotland’s cyber security defenders of the future a chance today

by Chris Fairbairn

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

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What if today, your day started with a cyber forecast as well as a weather forecast?

What if you left the house, or set out on a journey knowing what threat was highest on social media, or how someone will attempt to access personal information on your smartphone.

Imagine if you were as well informed about the next cyber threat likely to hit you, as the likelihood of needing an umbrella?

Or – what if you could give the people in your company the gift of knowing they will be safer online at work and at home?

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

So if that’s the case, 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 needing cyber apprentices or graduates in that projection?

Too difficult or costly? It’s actually comparatively easy.

This isn’t just about big business. It could be two smaller companies sharing a new cyber post for a year, or a medium sized company taking in someone keen to develop their new skills further before heading off to work elsewhere.

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 still being drawn south.

Scotland has created a skills marketplace but isn’t benefitting 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 and 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 fifty UK cyber security roles.

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, let’s meet their ambition for work opportunity and let’s drive forward with Scotland’s ambitions for leadership in this vital area.

The one thing business could do? A start would be to think about investing in these new apprentices and cybersecurity experts – even for an initial year, as their value to the business will only increase.

If a number do just that, this action alone could significantly improve our cyber defences.

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is a PR account manager with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood Partnership. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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