PCC helps college staff switch on to the threat of cyber attacks

More than 150 college staff attended a training event, joint funded by Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen and the North East Business Resilience Centre, to brush up on their cyber security knowledge.

PCC cybercrime

The event, which took place at Bishop Auckland College, is part of a new project developed to strengthen cyber security awareness among colleges and small businesses across the area.

The North East Business Resilience Centre (NEBRC) is a not-for-profit company bringing together experts from policing, academia and the private sector to help organisations understand and respond to the risks of cybercrime.

As part of the new partnership, NEBRC hosted an awareness training event at Bishop Auckland College to provide advice on a range of issues from cybercrime, phishing, password security and mobile working.

Delivered by Detective Inspector Martin Wilson, a Durham police officer with years of experience in cybercrime prevention and Joe Cockcroft, a recent graduate from Northumbria University with a First Class Masters in Cyber Security, the event also highlighted the protective measures that can help safeguard IT systems and data.

It comes after the Commissioner provided matched-funding worth £1,675 to the NEBRC to undertake vulnerability testing of IT systems and websites to determine the college’s risk of attack.

The testing has been delivered by local cyber security undergraduates to give them hands-on ‘real world’ experience in security testing and to provide a professional, cost-effective service to educational institutions to help them better protect themselves from a cyber breach.

A recent Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Cyber Security Breaches Survey in 2022 found around 70 per cent of schools, 88 per cent of further education colleges and 92 per cent of higher education colleges had identified cyber breaches or attacks over the previous 12 months.

Such breaches can disrupt teaching, cause financial and reputational damage and result in the loss or theft of vital data.

Safer Online and Safer Business are key priorities in the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan and she has outlined her commitment to funding and promoting cyber fraud awareness campaigns to help keep organisations safe.

Commissioner Allen said: “We live in a world where cybercrime is much more prevalent and where the repercussions of a security breach can have devastating consequences. Durham is not immune to these risks which are impacting organisations on a global scale.

“Educational institutions hold a vast amount of sensitive data and are becoming more and more vulnerable to attack. With the added responsibility of safeguarding students from harm, it even more essential that these establishments are supported to deliver a robust and effective cyber security strategy.

“I am proud to be partnering with the North East Business Resilience Centre to deliver this help and arm education providers with the knowledge and insight they need to counter any risks to their IT networks. At a time when education institutions are facing tighter budgets with rising costs, it is vital we do everything possible to help them overcome any challenges they may face in protecting their data assets.

“The huge turnout for this initial event proves there is strong interest among educational staff to understand how and where they can make a difference.”

Martin Wilson, Head of Student services at the NEBRC, added: “Cyber-attacks can be frightening and unfortunately are very commonplace, they can have significant impacts, and in educational terms cause disruption to teaching and learning.

“However, research has shown that simple measures taken by people when they use computer systems can make a huge difference, and it was my great pleasure to be able to pass on some of these hints and tips to Bishop Auckland College. I wish them every success in their future.”

The Commissioner has pledged to gain a better understanding of the crimes faced by businesses and ensure they receive the right support they need to keep themselves and their customers safe. She has also committed to tackling the emerging threats of cyber-enabled and cyber-dependent crime by developing new tactics and capabilities to safeguard those using online platforms.