Security Serious Week kicks off for third consecutive year

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Yvonne Eskenzi, founder of Security Serious Week and co-Founder of Eskenzi PR, talks about the third annual Security Serious Week, featuring a Virtual Summit and Unsung Heroes Awards ceremony, and why such events are important for the industry. 

Why is a PR agency running an event like Security Serious Week? 

For years Eskenzi PR has been asked by clients what should they do for cyber-security awareness month which happens in October. To be honest, very little ever really gets done; it’s always been a ‘thing’, but if you search the web for events there’s nothing on anyone’s calendar. So, 2 years ago, we decided to herald all the people we knew in cyber-security and cajole them into giving up their time to help others hone their cyber-security skills.  The main theme has been to make the UK a more secure place to do business online. 

So how did you go about getting people involved in Security Serious Week?

We initially organised a huge photo call outside the Tower of London, where we got 100 businesses to show that they were serious about security and push the theme that other businesses should follow their example.  Those same businesses gave up their time and offered advice online by providing over 45 free webinars.  Last year we organised a huge free conference on cyber-security awareness at the Department of Culture, Media and Sports. 

And what’s happening this year? 

This year it’s going to be exciting and informative!  We’ve decided the theme should be “Bridging the Cyber-skills gap through diversity and creativity”.  It’s the one theme that we hear about all the time from the industry complaining about the fact that they are so short-staffed and it would seem everyone is finding it increasingly impossible to recruit people into the industry. The competition is fierce to find skilled people and then very difficult to retain them, as they get head-hunted so easily.  So, we’ve organised a virtual summit around the whole topic of creative employment and diversity – with a keynote each day on this topic.    

What topics are you covering in your Security Serious Week Virtual Summit? 

Firstly, it’s important to note that the virtual conference is totally free and open to everyone.  We’ve got an unbelievable line up of professors, scholars, entrepreneurs, researchers, incubators, journalists, practitioners and visionaries, who will debate around the topic of the cyber skills gap.    

The first webinar will be on the Cyber Skills Gap – The Challenge – Setting the Scene It will be based around the Global Workforce Study which shows the real numbers that expose the challenges facing UK companies in the wake of a global cyber-security shortfall. The speakers participating in this webinar include Adrian Davis Managing Director, EMEA at (ISC); Ian Glover, President at CREST; Quentyn Taylor, Director of Information Security at Canon for Europe and it will be chaired by Warwick Ashford, Security Editor at Computer Weekly. 

On the 3rd October, the webinar will be on Incentives and UK initiatives encouraging Cyber-Security Investment and growth. We’ll hear from a number of people who are helping to make the UK a great place to grow a cyber-security business and beat Silicon Valley at their own game.    

These include Shane Wickramasuriya, Operations Manager, CyLon which is London based incubator; David Howorth, Head of EMEA, AlertLogic who has built up a 200 people strong UK cyber-security company; Andrew Mulvenna, founder of Brightpearl will discuss how he set up his IT business and has since become an investor in other companies in the UK;  Mike Spain, Operations Director, Cyber Growth Partnership will talk about some of the great initiatives available to spring board companies to success; and it will all be chaired by Sarb Sembhi, CTO, CISO & DPO, Virtually Informed who has a wealth of experience advising companies about security. 

Our next webinar will be on Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the cyber-industry. During this session, we will discuss how AI could potentially save the cyber-security industry skills gap – Peter Warren, journalist and thought leader on AI, will chair this session on how AI should be in the interest and control of the people for the people – and how it will impact on businesses from Mark Deem, partner at Cooley LLP for a legal perspective. Andrew Jones, Professor of Cyber Security at University of Hertfordshire will talk about the pros and cons of AI. 

On 5th October, the webinar will concentrate on Creative Employment – and how employers are going about recruiting people and retaining them. How and where do you go to find the right talent and once you find them what incentives can you offer them to stop them jumping ship and going to your competitors. 

The speakers during this webinar include: Shan Lee, Information Security Officer at TransferWise who has a wealth of experience developing and incentivizing his staff, Vicki Gavin, Head of Business Continuity and Information Security at the Economist Group will talk about how she goes about finding new staff; Ryan Farmer, Delivery Manager, Acumin Consulting, will discuss as recruiters how they attract the greatest talent; Emily Swiatek, National Autistic Society will discuss how they people with autism can often do very well with coding and they are working more and more with employers to match up people with autistic tendencies and James Hadley, Founder/CEO of Immersive Labs will discuss how he is approaching the cyber-skills gap through online games and tests which often attracts people who may not otherwise have realised they have the right skill set for the industry. 

On the 6th October, the webinar will look at Neuro Diversity and will look at some of the characteristics that make a cyber-security personality – and they don’t always need to follow convention. Brian Higgins from ISC2 will chair the event as we hear from the National Autistic Society, Speakers include: Emma Jones, Employment Training and Partnerships Manager at The National Autistic Society; Thomas Seidling, Relationship Manager, Cyber Smart and Tania Brooks, a computing teacher working with autism spectrum conditions and related social communication difficulties. 

Is the industry behind the Week? 

The industry has been brilliant at supporting the week. All sorts of people have given up their time to offer their expertise and advice during the webinars but most importantly without the sponsorship of the Security Serious Unsung Heroes Awards we couldn’t open them up to everyone to attend for free.  The Awards have been sponsored and supported by Mimecast, Gigamon, GSK, SE Labs, Canon, Eskenzi PR, Lastline, (ISC)², CREST, Barracuda, Smile on Fridays, 1E, Firemon, IT Security Guru, Corero and the Charities Security Forum.   

Tell us a bit about the Security Serious Unsung Heroes Awards 

Last year we ran the awards for the first time because we were so fed up with all the self-congratulatory awards that are held in the industry for companies who seem to win awards because they pay for them. There wasn’t anything out there for the real heroes who go above and beyond the call of duty, basically those people who quietly save companies from disasters – the real people in our industry.  I believe the cyber-security industry is made up of some very modest people who really deserve recognition which is why we decided to run these awards. 

Have you had many nominations for the Unsung Heroes Awards? 

We’ve had over 100 people be nominated for 16 awards which include the rising star, best security awareness campaign, best security team, captain compliance, fraud fighter, godfather of security, cyber-writer, best security leader, educator and we’ve got quite a few CISO awards across the vertical sectors.    

How can you make the awards fun? 

Trust me they’ll be a blast – we promise they’ll be like no other awards. Basically, it’s a piss up in a brewery!  Everyone who is nominated, including the people who made the nominations and their friends are all invited to attend.  They’ll be food and booze all night and we really want it to be a celebration of all the great unsung heroes where we all get to let our hair down and have a great evening.  All the heroes not only get a huge trophy with their names on them, but fun gimmicky prizes and goodie bags courtesy of our sponsors, too.  In fact, we found it so difficult to choose the winners we’ve got lots of runners up who will also be given a trophy!  It really will be a night to be remembered which should be a laugh with Clive Room as the compere.   

You can learn more and get involved by visiting our website.

Dean Alvarez, Features Editor at IT Security Guru 

Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock