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Detective leading drive to improve cyber resilience among SMEs

The National Cyber Resilience Centre Group, led by Thames Valley Detective Superintendent Nick Bell, was set up last year to strengthen cyber resilience across the business community.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) has held its first annual summit for a network created to improve the cyber resilience of small and medium sized organisations (SMEs).

Hosted earlier this month by the City of London Commissioner Angela McLaren in her role as national lead for Cyber and Economic Crime, the summit was organised as part of the NPCC's National Cybercrime Programme (NCP).

In 2020, this programme launched a project designed to make SMEs more cyber secure by installing a Cyber Resilience Centre (CRC) in every region of the UK. These centres employ students to offer cyber training and support to SMEs.

This was expanded the following year with the launch of the National Cyber Resilience Centre Group (NCRCG), a not-for-profit company set up to strengthen cyber resilience across the business community. 

NPCC Detective Superintendent Nick Bell was on board when the CRCs project was launched in 2020, and is now the CEO of the NCRCG and National Policing Director for the CRCs.

He told Police Oracle that, at the point he started, there were only two pilot CRCs across the UK. Over the course of 2020, they opened centres in every region of England and Wales.

With “53% of all crime cyber and fraud related”, Det Supt Bell argues the necessity of supporting smaller businesses in this arena: “If you are a big organisation and you are subject to a cyber-attack, it will impact you but you will survive.

“If you are an SME and you are subject to a cyber-attack you may go under."

Government statistics published last year stated that there were 5.6 million businesses in the UK as of 2021; according to Det Supt Bell,  "99% of those" are SMEs.

This makes clear the need for a network which can support such businesses with their cyber needs, an area that is understandably not owners' top priority. “Businesses have been in survival mode with Covid, and now with the cost of living crisis," says Det Supt Bell.

The NCRCG, created as a more cost effective measure, is funded and supported by the Home Office, policing and Ambassador partners.

Representatives of each were in attendance at the summit, alongside the police leads of each regional CRC. For Det Supt Bell, this first outing represented a “really valuable step for policing" as strives to tackle an area of crime that is only likely to grow in threat.

He believes this type of engagement aids the objective of “trying to make cyber crime part of the everyday conversation”, while also guiding the policing response to criminality which can often be "cross-jurisdictional and state-supported".

These elements mean a different approach is required, explains the detective: “Policing, historically, has always tried to investigate our way out of most situations.

“But where we need to cross borders, criminal investigation can be a real challenge. There needs to be a real shift, from pursue to prevention."

This is where the expertise of CRCs comes in, with the NCRCG - under an initiative called Cyber PATH - working to build a talent pipeline of students to ensure long-term support for SMEs.

Moving forward, Det Supt Bell says the NCRCG will continue to focus on "promoting the importance of cyber resilience across the business and third sector/charity communities", as well as supporting the long-term development of the CRC network.

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