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London launches cyber defence centre for small businesses

The London Digital Security Centre has been set up by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime as part of the mayor’s business crime strategy

London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime Stephen Greenhalgh has launched a public-private partnership initiative to help the city’s small businesses protect themselves from cyber criminals.

The first of its kind in England, the London Digital Security Centre (LDSC) has been set up by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac) as part of the mayor’s business crime strategy and is staffed by a team of professionals from the civil service, law enforcement and industry.

“This is a landmark because we have moved from strategy and aspiration to action, and today sees the start point of thinking about how we protect London’s micro to medium-sized businesses,” said Greenhalgh.

There is a “huge amount of goodwill”, he said of bringing together policing, technology, business and ethical hacking expertise. The LDSC offers the latest cyber industry guidance through its website, roadshows and advice surgeries. It also offers expert security assessments and digital footprint reports to enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to identify and resolve vulnerabilities.

“Above all, the mission is to prevent crime from happening in the first place by ensuring that businesses are as diligent in ensuring their digital infrastructure is robust and as hard to penetrate as they are about protecting their physical office space and assets,” said Greenhalgh.

“It is hugely important that we focus on London which has a massive part to play in the national economy as do small businesses which provide around 50% of employment in the capital.”

Mopac is providing £325,000 funding over two years to establish the LDSC, after which it will be self-sufficient, paid for through revenues generated from the sale of its services and from donations.

“The success of the LDSC will depend on the good will of London’s businesses and the Metropolitan Police’s Falcon cyber crime and fraud unit, and the expertise of technologists to come together to provide a one-stop shop for small businesses to help ensure that London is the best and safest place for small businesses to thrive,” Greenhalgh said.

Falcon officers will be working with the LDSC to help arm SMEs with the tools and knowledge they need to better protect themselves from fraud and cyber crime.

In addition to the Met’s Falcon unit, the LDSC involves the National Crime Agency and the City of London Police, working in partnership with academics, and businesses and technology firms, including Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland and BT.

Read more about cyber security for SMEs

SMEs lacking resources to fight cyber crime

Millions of pounds are lost to cyber crime each year and online security is a growing concern for SMEs with 250 or fewer employees that face many of the same threats as larger organisations, but typically lack the resources to address them.

According to the government-sponsored 2015 Information security breaches survey conducted by PwC, 74% of UK SMEs were hit by cyber attacks in 2014-2015 and 16% had their network hit, losing both sensitive data and the ability to trade.

The LDSC, which builds on the model used in Scotland by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, is aimed at providing affordable access to support from the professionals in the fields of digital policing and cyber security.

LDSC head Patrick Nuttall said: “We have consulted extensively with SMEs in London and we know the demand is there for a trusted, affordable resource to provide cyber security advice and support.

“The LDSC is here to help London businesses that may not be able to afford the in-house expertise found in larger companies to identify and manage cyber risks, enabling them to safely harness the power of technology,” he added.

Nuttall said the aim of the LDSC is not to compete with commercial service providers. “We are here to fill a gap, but once SME have started to do basic infrastructure hardening and looking at more complex issues such as user behaviour, that is when the private sector can start to help,” he told Computer Weekly at the launch.

“Once SMEs start doing the activities, they will start to understand the business impact of cyber crime and appreciate that they really need to make the investment in professional services.”

Alan Seldon, operations director at Voneus Limited, a digital telecommunications agency whose systems have undergone testing by the LDSC, said: “No company should be complacent about the possibility of being targeted by cyber criminals and held to ransom, which is massively under-reported because companies do not want to risk any reputational damage or loss of confidence.

“Like all SMEs, we cannot dedicate a full-time resource, so it makes sense to bring in the experts at the LDSC to test our systems and to provide advice,” he added. A small investment could potentially mitigate against a large loss, and by using the LDSC we are able to protect ourselves as much as possible.”

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