Opinion – Strength in numbers: How partnerships can tackle cyber issues collaboratively

Jude McCorry, Chair of CyberScotland Partnership

By Jude McCorry, Chair of CyberScotland Partnership

PARTNERSHIPS in the tech sector are nothing new; think Jobs and Wozniak, Gates and Allan, Page and Brin. More people bring more ideas, which hopefully equates to success.

But when it comes to organisations collaborating with other organisations, there has been a hesitancy in the past. Understandably so, there are obvious competition issues. However, the world has evolved – perhaps irreversibly from the impact of the last two years – and the spirit of uniting to support and protect others has been reignited. So, how has this translated in the business world, and what more can be done?

The pandemic has been the catalyst for the formation of many business networks, united to support their wider community or sector. But with more crises emerging right now – from fuel shortages to tackling the climate emergency – we’re likely to see this trend continue. Certainly, McKinsey has recently stated that amongst other areas, partnering with people from other companies will be crucial for future leaders.

But when our natural business instinct is to withhold information from our closest competitors, how can we adjust our mindset?

Scotland has become place where collaboration between organisations is the norm. Brought together by a shared vision, organisations are putting their can-do attitudes to good use while contributing to a much broader issue or challenge. We have seen many partnerships rise from the pandemic; from formal groups like Scottish Business Cares and the Scottish Tech Army, to agreements between business groups like the IoD and CBI in seeking to tackle the effects of the pandemic.

An unexpected way that businesses are coming together is to reinforce the message that action must be taken to stand up against cyber attacks. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reported that cyber attacks were on the rise in 2020 as more employees worked remotely and business’ reliance on technology increased . While much has been done by the NCSC and Scottish Business Resilience Centre among others to increase the profile of how businesses should prepare for cyber related incidents, the pandemic has reinforced the need for a broader set of organisations to work together to hammer the message home on how others can work to avoid being impacted.

By bringing together several organisations that reinforce the same message across various sectors, a broader audience could be exposed to it and will be more inclined to review and strengthen their cyber defences – particularly if it is an influential sectoral organisation that is doing this.

This is exactly what we have been aiming to do with the CyberScotland Partnership since its inception earlier this year. Bringing together a cross-section of organisations that want to do the right thing to support businesses in the public, private and third sectors has been integral to its success. By creating practical resources, the members of the Partnership have been able to inform and educate individuals and groups that they work with.

From speaking with those involved, many have expressed that it wouldn’t be possible for them to make the impact and raise the volume of noise around cyber threats to the extent they have without being a part of a wider group. Collaboration is everything, as they attest to. It will be in this “strength in numbers” approach that reach education and change can happen. This is something that organisations and groups in other parts of the UK and abroad can adopt too.

We all know the negatives to have emerged from the pandemic, but equally, we have seen many individuals and businesses step up to support others in their communities and networks. As part of the “new ways of working” that many of us will experience, the establishment of partnerships that collectively come together to address a community-wide issue is something I hope will continue for many years to come.

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