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Home » Digital Transformation » Boosting cybersecurity skills for small businesses in Ireland

Professor Donna O’Shea

Head of Cybersecurity, MTU

Specialist training is being offered to personnel in small businesses to support the sector in protection against cyberattacks.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks because many do not have the resources to adequately protect themselves, according to industry expert Professor Donna O’Shea.

O’Shea says: “A cyberattack on a SME will probably close the business whereas multinationals generally have a business continuity plan in place and can deal with an incident because they have the resources. We need to protect smaller businesses because they are the backbone of our economy and often part of the supply chains for larger organisations. By improving their resilience, we improve the resilience of all businesses.”

Flexible modules

Professor O’Shea is Chair of Cybersecurity at Munster Technological University (MTU) and leads the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Human Capital Initiative (HCI) project — CYBER-SKILLS —an initiative that aims to address the cybersecurity skills shortfall.

It takes an innovative approach to upskill and re-skill learners who already have busy roles in the industry. Through a range of flexible modules and courses, it offers university accredited upskilling and reskilling opportunities for learners that want to work in the industry sector. A key focus is to work with industry partners on workforce development, upskilling employees with cybersecurity skills necessary to perform their job role in the organisation.

The courses are aimed at people in the workplace to complement their everyday work skills.

Real-world scenarios

“We align to an internationally recognised framework and develop customised pathways in cybersecurity education, aligned to job roles with flexible, short, courses,” she adds. “The courses are aimed at people in the workplace to complement their everyday work skills.”

Students can tap into the CYBER-SKILLS educational infrastructure and access state-of-the-art technology to experience real-world cybersecurity scenarios. They are the only educational provider in Ireland that hosts this infrastructure, ensuring learners are workplace ready on graduation.

Specialised pathway

They have worked with large organisations such as Dell, where personnel with core computer science skills were upskilled in cybersecurity as secure operations specialists. They taught them to secure network services and networks and analyse log files and appraise governance risk.

CYBER-SKILLS also worked with Mastercard, along with other MNCs, to upskill the software development workforce.

Acutely aware of the difficulties SMEs have in competing with multinationals in recruiting cybersecurity talent, the program has developed a specialised pathway to deliver the skills to this sector. Their reduced-cost modules look at improving and providing resilience to SMEs to deal with cyber threats and face regulatory and compliance challenges.

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