Our Head of Technology and Engineering, Wayne Horkan, took part in the cyber industry panel “Strengthening the ecosystem through collaboration” hosted at the Cyber Scape 23 event, part of Birmingham Tech Week at the ICC, and we also attended the end-of-week awards black-tie ceremony, both on Friday the 23rd of October 2023.

Strengthening the ecosystem through collaboration Discussion Panel

The panel had a healthy attendance and was hosted by Ryan Protheroe of Midlands Cyber, and consisted of:

  • Professor Prashant Pillai MBE – Vice Chair at The University of Wolverhampton and Director at The Cyber Quarter, the Midlands Centre for Cyber Security.
  • Steve Borwell Fox – Director at Midlands Cyber, the recognised Cyber Cluster for the West Midlands.
  • Mike Osbourne – COO at InterCity, who provides Cloud and Security, Communications and Managed IT services.
  • Wayne Horkan – Head of Technology and Engineering at Cyber Tzar.

The panel aimed to uncover “what encompasses our cyber eco-system and the current landscape” and Ryan went over the following.

Challenges and Opportunities within the Ecosystem

What key factors contribute to the robustness and competitiveness of the West Midlands’ cyber ecosystem, and how can they be leveraged for sustained growth and innovation in the digital landscape?

Panel Response:

  • Vibrant Ecosystem and Diverse Talent Pool: The West Midlands boasts a unique blend of industries, academia, startups, and a young, diverse population, creating a dynamic cyber ecosystem and ensuring a comprehensive understanding of varied cyber challenges, as well as a steady pipeline of skilled cybersecurity professionals.
  • Collaboration and Innovation: Strong collaborations between businesses, educational institutions, and government, coupled with the presence of major tech companies and startups, drive innovation and competitiveness in the cybersecurity field.
  • Addressing Comprehensive IT Risks: The region is actively working to bridge the skills gap and address emerging challenges in cybersecurity, with a focus on developing platforms and strategies to mitigate comprehensive IT risks, including third-party, supply chain, and shadow IT issues.

The view from Cyber Tzar:

  • Given the diversified risks stemming from various industries, Cyber Tzar plays a crucial role in customizing solutions to meet the specific needs of each sector, ensuring a safer digital landscape for all. We are at the forefront, providing robust product-based solutions and contributing to the resilience of the ecosystem by helping our channel partners deliver cybersecurity services.

Collaboration and Partnership

In what ways can collaborative efforts be harnessed to achieve success and growth within the West Midlands, and what strategies have you found personally proven effective in fostering collaborative partnerships between different stakeholders, both public and private, in the pursuit of cyber growth?

Panel Response:

  • Cross-Sector Synergy and Networking: The West Midlands promotes innovation and knowledge exchange through active collaboration between technology sectors, academia, and government, facilitated by regular networking events and industry conferences.
  • Education and Workforce Development: Utilizing academic institutions to offer cybersecurity training and certification programs, the region ensures a continual supply of skilled professionals, while fostering partnerships between education and industry to align training with current industry needs.
  • Government Support and Innovation Incentives: Progressive policies and incentive programs from the government attract businesses and support growth in the cybersecurity sector, creating a conducive environment for innovation and collaboration across different stakeholders.

The view from Cyber Tzar:

  • An example from Cyber Tzar’s experience is our collaboration with MSPs and consultancies, which has extended our reach and expertise. This synergy has allowed us to serve our clients better and address real-world cyber challenges effectively including the move to mitigating substantial third-party risk in the supply chain of our clients.

Emerging Technologies

To what extent is our region effectively adapting to the challenges and opportunities presented by emerging technologies like AI and Threat Intelligence Platforms, and what steps can be taken to enhance regional preparedness in the face of these transformative technological advancements?

Panel Response:

  • Adaptation to AI and Threat Intelligence: The West Midlands is progressively embracing emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Threat Intelligence Platforms, integrating them into various sectors to enhance cybersecurity measures and operational efficiency. Local businesses and governmental bodies increasingly utilise these technologies for predictive analytics and proactive threat mitigation.
  • Skills Development and Training: To bolster regional preparedness, there is a need for ongoing skills development and training programs, specifically in AI and threat intelligence. Leveraging academic institutions and industry partnerships to offer specialized courses and workshops can ensure that the local workforce is equipped with the necessary expertise.
  • Investment in Infrastructure and Research: Enhancing the region’s digital infrastructure and investing in research and development are crucial steps. This could involve fostering innovation hubs and centers of excellence that specialize in emerging technologies, providing a space for experimentation, innovation, and collaboration between industry experts, researchers, and policymakers.

The view from Cyber Tzar:

  • More needs to be done around combating potential and realised AI-based threats, dealing with the rise in shadow IT (the use of “unapproved” technologies), and improving the coordinated use of threat intelligence across Birmingham, the West Midlands and the UK as a whole, and for the latter initiatives like the NCSC’s CISP programme help deliver quality up-to-date threat intelligence. The Cyber Tzar platform already uses AI in three ways, (a) assisting with testing automation, (b) generating test exfiltration data, and (c) identifying brand sitting, hijacking, and phishing honeypots, coupled with threat intelligence from CISP and from the Dark Web to regularly update our assessment of individual vulnerabilities and isssues.

Cyber Resilience

How do we embed what good looks like for the entirety of the UK through the West Midlands? How do we become advocates against destructive technologies, being the frontrunner for “secure by design”/resilience by design etc?

Panel Response:

  • Establishing Best Practices and Standards: To embed exemplary standards across the UK through the West Midlands, the region takes an active lead in developing and implementing best practices and rigorous standards in cybersecurity and technology design. This involves not only adopting ‘secure by design’ and ‘resilience by design’ principles but also actively contributing to national and international conversations on setting these standards.
  • Fostering a Culture of Innovation and Responsibility: Encouraging a culture that values innovation and ethical responsibility is key. The West Midlands is a hub for responsible technology development, promoting practices that prevent the creation of destructive technologies. This includes implementing stringent ethical guidelines and providing education on the potential risks and responsibilities associated with emerging technologies.
  • Advocacy and Thought Leadership: By positioning itself as a thought leader in secure and resilient technology design, the West Midlands joins the conversation advocating for responsible practices at a national level. This involves engaging in dialogue with policymakers, participating in industry forums, and creating awareness campaigns that highlight the importance of secure and resilient design practices.

The view from Cyber Tzar:

  • At Cyber Tzar, we are setting regional benchmarks for cyber resilience through our comprehensive scorecard and benchmarking tools, aiding businesses in evaluating and enhancing their cybersecurity postures. Advocating for a “security by design” approach, we encourage embedding security measures from the start of any initiative, supported by regional incentives to foster a resilient digital landscape. Our platform also assists cyber insurance providers in precisely assessing company cyber risks, contributing to a more secure ecosystem. Ultimately, our aim is for Cyber Tzar’s universal cyber risk score to become a standardized regional, national, and even international security benchmark.

HMG’s New Cyber T-Level Qualifications

The recent introduction of new T-Level vocational qualifications for Cyber by the UK Government is poised to play a significant role in shaping the future of cybersecurity education and workforce development in the West Midlands.

Panel Response:

  • Bridging the Skills Gap: The new vocational qualifications are designed to align more closely with industry needs, helping to address the skills gap in cybersecurity and other technical fields, it helps people enter the job market and continually improve.
  • Expanding Access to Education: By providing more flexible and accessible pathways to cybersecurity education and training, these qualifications are expected to broaden participation and diversity in the cyber workforce.
  • Strengthening Regional Competitiveness: With a more skilled and diverse workforce, the West Midlands is well-positioned to attract and retain cybersecurity businesses and talent, enhancing the region’s competitiveness on a global scale.

The view from Cyber Tzar:

  • Cyber Tzar welcomes these developments, recognizing the potential of the new vocational qualifications to transform cybersecurity education and workforce development in our region and despite being an early-stage startup we have already run two internships. We are committed to supporting these initiatives, leveraging our expertise and resources to ensure their success and drive the West Midlands towards a more secure and prosperous digital future and have been involved in the body responsible for defining the T-Levels standards in Cyber, the UK Cyber Security Council.

Black Tie Awards Night Dinner

To conclude the week, our Head of Technology and Engineering, Wayne, attended the Black Tie Awards Night as a representative of Aston University. Additionally, our Cyber Security Engineer, Andrew, received an invitation on behalf of Natwest.

Furthermore, it was a heart-warming moment to see our dear friend, Richard Bate, proudly accepting the “Start-up of the Year” award on behalf of Goldilock, a fellow Alumni of the NCSC’s NCSC For Start-up program.









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