Cyber Security - What is it and why do we teach it?

Cybersecurity has been an issue since before the advent of the internet - yet even today, there is still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding around what it is and how to protect yourself and your business.

We know first hand how devastating cyber crime can be - in 2020, Dundee and Angus College was the victim of a massive cyber attack which resulted in masses of vital data being completely wiped out.

This is why we established a Cyber Security Fundamentals programme to give businesses the knowledge and skills they need to prevent an attack, but also recover from it if you are hacked.

What is Cyber Security?

According to Security Magazine, there are five main cyber threats to be aware of, these are: Social Engineering (such as phishing attacks and scareware), Ransomware, DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, weaknesses in Third Party Software, and weaknesses in Cloud Security.

Each of these tactics uses different methods to reach the same goal - either steal data for criminal use or to sell on, or to hold IT systems to ransom with data or the system itself only being released after money is paid to the attackers.

In the case of the College unfortunately the attackers wiped the compromised data. While this was obviously a catastrophic event for our organisation, it can be even more damaging for an SME with limited IT skills or knowledge to hand.

Who is responsible for cyber security?

One person cannot be responsible for the security of the whole organisation, which is why the programme was designed so that all staff can benefit from it and build their own sense of personal responsibility - while also gaining a recognised SQA qualification at the same time.

Laura Louch, Sector Development Lead at Dundee and Angus College, said: “Most businesses, increasingly so thanks to Covid, are working in the Cloud. This brings with it benefits but also increased risk as your data may not be held solely on your own servers, limiting the control you can have over its security - again this is where having a local backup is important.

“A key tool to reduce the risk of falling victim to cyber crime is to ensure you and your staff are kept aware and up to date with the most common threats, how to spot them and how to deal with them - after all, security is a joint responsibility and this programme is key to driving home that message.”

The Cyber Security Fundamentals programme

Following the cyber-attack at Dundee and Angus College and due to the increasingly digital world that we all inhabit, we felt it was imperative that people are armed with knowledge required to keep themselves safe.

The delivery of the course successfully blends theory and practical knowledge, resulting in students taking practical steps on their personal devices and in their homes to increase their cyber security

The course materials were developed by Computing Lecturers Ian Birchall and Adam Gummer, who both have a background in Networking and Cyber security, using a web-based tool, which produces interactive learning materials which are easily accessible for students.

The Cyber Security Fundamentals programme is designed to be self-guided, meaning participants can work through and complete it in their own time and at their own pace and courses can be personalised to the needs of different organisations as required, however a tutor is always available to answer any questions participants may have.