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Diversity key to more effective cyber security, says NCSC

Diversity in defence teams is key to improved cyber security, according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)

To combat the cyber security threat, “we need to be the very best in the world at what we do,” said Nicola Hudson, NCSC director of communications.

“We need to approach and do things differently, using maths, behavioural sciences, linguistics, psychology, law, computer and sciences,” she told the opening session of CyberUK 2018 conference in Manchester.

Continuing the theme of diversity, she said: “We need to bring together people from a range of disciplines and backgrounds to work together on this. “We also need to bring to bear the widest pool of talent that we possibly can and that means we need a much more diverse workforce.”

As a public service organisation, Hudson said the NCSC needs to reflect the population that it is serving. “A more diverse workforce is essential to this. It makes us more effective.”

According to Hudson, research has shown that teams that are more diverse are more effective, not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of neuro-, social-, geographic- and other forms of diversity.

As an organisation, she said the NCSC is determined to look at diversity in its widest sense, but admitted that it is not easy to begin making the change.

“Without true diversity we are in danger of group-think, behaviour challenges and quite frankly we will not tap into the skills we need.”

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At CyberUK 2017 in Liverpool, the NCSC announced several initiatives to support its commitment to greater diversity, and continues to considering diversity goals in everything it plans to do in the short, medium and long term, said Hudson.

“Take this conference for immediate actions – a pledge for no all-male panels.  This has been very difficult; we have a range of phenomenal speakers, all here for their expertise in their area but it has been something we have had to actively work at, question ourselves and think about our own networks,” she said.

In the medium term, the NCSC is looking at its policies and processes, and how it recruits and retains the diverse pool of talent needed.

Long-term actions

In terms of long-term actions, Hudson said the NCSC recently hosted the second year of its hugely successful CyberFirst Girls competition in Manchester in partnership with 50 companies.

“Over 4,500 girls aged between 12 and 13 competed. Being on the judging panel, it was clear how passionate and engaged they were at this age,” said Hudson.

“We hope they continue on this cyber journey joining us on our cyber courses, residentials, bursary and apprentice programme.

“However, we need to do more. We obviously had a lot of girls, and we had good black, Asian and minority ethnic representation, but we are looking at what more we can do to reach those girls in poor performing schools without the support and network, the excluded and those with disabilities.”

Working together

But even with these and other initiatives, Hudson said the NCSC cannot do this alone. “This is where we all need to work together, learn from each other and build on successes.”

In closing, Hudson challenged attendees to think about posting a diversity pledge on a “pledge wall” at the conference. “This is something that has to be tackled as a community.”

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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