In a bid to bolster the cybersecurity defenses of Northern Ireland’s charitable organisations, Vertical Structure has emerged as a cybersecurity leader, aiding numerous local charities in enhancing their cybersecurity posture through the UK government’s Cyber Essentials Plus initiative.
Charities may not typically be viewed as prime targets for cyberattacks, but a 2022 National Cyber Security Centre report revealed that 30% of UK charities had experienced cyberattacks in the preceding year. Of these attacks, 38% had a detrimental impact on their services, with 19% resulting in negative outcomes. The UK houses approximately 200,000 registered charities, boasting a collective annual income of £100 billion.
In light of the shifting focus of cybercriminals from large enterprises to smaller, more vulnerable entities such as charities, it is imperative that the sector equips itself with the necessary tools and knowledge to fortify against cyber threats.
NICVA, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, has long recognised the significance of cybersecurity in its governance framework and has actively encouraged resource-sharing to help charities elevate their cybersecurity defenses.
Sandra Bailie, representing NICVA, emphasised, “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), operating under GCHQ’s intelligence service, initiated the Cyber Essentials Plus program, funded with the aim of elevating cybersecurity standards across UK organisations and safeguarding them against common cyber threats.
Lorraine McCafferty, Head of the NI Cyber Security Centre (NICSC), which 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. 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 funded initiative, Cyber Essentials Plus enables charitable organisations to obtain certification without straining their already limited resources. For organisations with tight budgets, cybersecurity can often be deprioritised, making this funding a crucial lifeline to help charities stay ahead of cyber threats.
Moreover, having an experienced certification body like Vertical Structure guiding them through the process has transformed what might have been a daunting experience into a positive one for many charities.
Joanne Madine, Office Manager at Bolster Community, praised Vertical Structure, saying, “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.”
Vertical Structure, as an accredited service provider for Cyber Essentials, has successfully partnered with over 35 Northern Ireland charities, facilitating funding acquisition and shepherding them through the certification process.
Simon Whittaker, CEO at Vertical Structure, expressed his satisfaction with the program, 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.”
While the initial scheme has concluded, a similar opportunity awaits charities for 2023/24 if they employ fewer than 50 staff and are based in Northern Ireland.