“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.”
Vertical Structure is currently the leading player when it comes to cyber security in Northern Ireland, and the business has now used its position to assist dozens of local charitable organisations in refining their cyber security under the UK Government’s Cyber Essentials Plus initiative.
Charities may not be the first organisations that spring to mind as being high-value targets for hackers. However, a 2022 National Cyber Security Centre cyber threat report highlighted that 30% of UK charities identified a cyber attack in the last 12 months. Of those attacks, 38% had an impact on the service with 19% “resulting in a negative outcome”. There are 200,000 charities registered in the UK with a combined annual income of £100bn.
With cyber criminals shifting focus away from larger, enterprise-sized companies with significant cyber security, to smaller, more vulnerable organisations such as charities, it is more important than ever that the sector begins to understand the measures required to become more resilient to cyber attacks.
NICVA, The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, has listed Cyber Security as a core topic of governance for some years having continually encouraged the sharing of resources to enable charities to level up their response.
Sandra Bailie from NICVA said: “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 UK government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of its intelligence service GCHQ, launched its latest funded initiative for Cyber Essentials Plus. Its objective is to help UK organisations level-up their cyber security and protect themselves from the most common forms of cyber attack.
Lorraine McCafferty, Head of the NI Cyber Security Centre (NICSC) who provides funding for the scheme commented: “The NICSC is committed to supporting the NCSC National CE+ Funded programme and ensuring access to ring-fenced funded spaces for N.Ireland organisations.
As a fully funded scheme, it enables charitable organisations to undergo certification to Cyber Essentials Plus without helping to ease pressure on already tight funds. For organisations that are not typically cash-rich, cyber security can sometimes get pushed to one side. Providing this funding is a lifeline for the sector and helps charities keep pace with the bad actors seeking to exploit them.
In addition to being fully funded, having an experienced certification body such as Vertical Structure by their side from start to finish can turn what can be a daunting experience into an extremely positive one.
Joanne Madine, Office Manager at Bolster Community said: “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 an assured service provider for Cyber Essentials, Vertical Structure has worked with over 35 Northern Ireland charities to help them obtain funding and guide them through the certification process with huge success.
Simon Whittaker, CEO at Vertical Structure said: “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.”
While the initial scheme has completed, there is now a similar opportunity for 2023/24 for charities employing under 50 staff and who are based in Northern Ireland.