Last Updated on: 21st November 2023, 11:32 pm
Pioneering the domain of cybersecurity in Northern Ireland, Vertical Structure has played a pivotal role in enhancing the cybersecurity posture of numerous local charitable organisations, courtesy of the United Kingdom government’s latest initiative, Cyber Essentials Plus.
Charitable entities may not be the foremost targets that come to mind for cyber adversaries. Nevertheless, a 2022 report on cyber threats by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) highlighted that 30% of charitable organisations in the United Kingdom reported experiencing a cyber attack within the past year. Of these attacks, 38% resulted in operational disruptions, with 19% yielding unfavorable consequences. It is noteworthy that the UK houses a staggering 200,000 registered charities, collectively amassing an annual income of £100 billion.
In light of cyber malefactors shifting their attention from large-scale corporations, endowed with substantial cybersecurity apparatus, to smaller, comparatively vulnerable entities such as charitable organisations, it becomes imperative for the sector to grasp the requisite measures for bolstering resilience against cyber assaults.
NICVA, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, has accorded paramount significance to Cybersecurity as a central facet of governance for several years. It has consistently advocated for the pooling of resources to empower charitable entities in elevating their cybersecurity defenses.
Sandra Bailie, representing NICVA, articulated, “Cyber Security is a major risk for charities in Northern Ireland and working in partnership with experts NICVA provides the sector with the help and support they need to improve their cyber security and reduce their risks. We work closely with The NI Cyber Security Centre, signposting to their resources and delivering training and Vertical Structure has provided practical support to many of our members.”
In 2022, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), an integral component of the UK’s intelligence apparatus under GCHQ, launched its most recent funded initiative, Cyber Essentials Plus. Its primary objective is to empower UK organisations to augment their cybersecurity and shield themselves against prevalent forms of cyber onslaughts.
Lorraine McCafferty, the Head of the NI Cyber Security Centre (NICSC), responsible for providing funding for this program, remarked, “The NICSC is committed to supporting the NCSC National CE+ Funded programme and ensuring access to ring-fenced funded spaces for N.Ireland organisations. In 2022/23, NICSC supported 30+ N.Ireland charities to secure CE/CE+ funding and we will continue to provide N.Ireland charities with the opportunity to avail of CE/CE+ funding for 2023/24. NICSC highly recommend the CE+ scheme as an exemplar approach to helping protect your organisation against cyber attack.”
As a fully endowed initiative, it grants charitable organisations the opportunity to attain Cyber Essentials Plus certification without augmenting the financial constraints that often beset them. For organisations that typically operate with limited financial resources, cybersecurity can often be relegated to a lower priority. The provision of this funding constitutes a lifeline for the sector, enabling charitable entities to keep pace with malicious actors intent on exploiting their vulnerabilities.
In addition to the financial support, having an adept certifying body like Vertical Framework at their disposal, guiding them from inception to fruition, can transform what might be a daunting undertaking into an exceedingly positive experience.
Joanne Madine, the Office Manager at Bolster Community, testified, “Vertical Structure guided us through what could have been a very time-consuming process, we had Cyber Essentials implemented in a matter of months with next to no downtime on our end.”
As a certified service provider for Cyber Essentials, Vertical Framework has collaborated with over 35 charitable organisations in Northern Ireland, assisting them in securing funding and expertly steering them through the certification journey, all with resounding success.
Simon Whittaker, CEO of Vertical Framework, reflected on this collaboration, stating, “Working with local charitable organisations under this scheme has been hugely rewarding for us all. All too often, we see cyber security being deprioritised due to a lack of funds. This scheme has countered that issue and ignited huge interest from charities across Northern Ireland.”
Although the inaugural iteration of the program has concluded, there exists a similar opportunity for the year 2023/24, specifically tailored for charities employing fewer than 50 staff members and situated within Northern Ireland.