WINN Round Table at The Hive - Cyber and IT

ERDFTOP cyber and IT experts were at Worcester’s iconic Hive building to hear about and discuss the latest advancements and applications of technology in the cyber and IT sector.

They were joined by many Worcestershire-based businesses who were keen to engage with and discuss their own businesses with the trio of key industry figures. The visitors were Anthony Alston of VIVACE, Tim Parsons of QinetiQ, and George Hannah of Ericom.

Also in attendance were local business leaders Steve Winstanley, WBC (Worcestershire Business Central); Wendy Garrad, WCC (Worcestershire County Council); Corina Elliott, Midlands Cyber; Amy Sara Welbourn, Ericom; Duncan Sutcliffe, Sutcliffe & Co; Jess Antley, WINN; James Dyke, DittoIT; Sam Marshall, The Hobbit Design; Pierre Watson, ‘pierre the bear’.

The event was organised by WINN (Worcestershire Innovation) – a joint innovation programme between Worcestershire County Council and Worcestershire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund 'Be Cyber Secure' Programme currently running in Worcestershire. The event was partnered with WBC (Worcestershire Business Central).

About the speakers…

ANTHONY ALSTON is the Ideation lead for data-focused cyber intelligence group VIVACE.

TIM PARSONS is a Cyber Security Solution Architect from QinetiQ – a multinational defence technology company based in Farnborough. It is one of the UK’s largest defence contractors.

GEORGE HANNAH is a Security Access Consultant with Ericom – a company which helps businesses to provide staff access to applications and secure browsing.

Also speaking…

WENDY GARRAD is the Project Manager, for cyber, with Worcestershire County Council.

Delivering the first presentation of the morning, Anthony Alston wasted no time in offering some insight into how VIVACE is keen to bring access to communications data across the board. “Serious crime and counter terrorism forms a large part of our current work,” he began

“The way the communications industry is changing rapidly means we are working hard to allow law enforcement agencies to gain access to, basically, what the bad guys are doing.

“The difficulty is in the rate in which the technology is changing and trying to understand where the industry is going.

“The focus of the data we look at is communications data. Essentially, there are a large number of organisations within government that can warrant data about communications.

“It’s not about wire stripping and putting crocodile clips on, this is about looking deep into the data that is already held. It is accessible retained data.

“It’s about who is communicating, when are they communicating, and where are they? And it needs to be done in a way that can be used in court as evidence.

“What the Home Office is really keen on is getting the non-traditional suppliers on board. “Different people from different domains – get them in to talk about what their needs are within their domain.

“We want to get ideas out of our customers so we can be proactive in bringing cybercrime solutions to everyone.

“For subscribers within our consortium, we use a collaborative ideation tool – ‘Spotlight’. It allows the community of people we are involved in to share ideas and solution.”



Jess Antley: The NDAs that get signed? They’re signed with the government?

Anthony Alston: Yes.

James Dyke: Will you have multiple cybercompanies?

Anthony Alston: Oh yes, yes. We won’t turn anyone away. We’ll have multiple cyber companies. If there are multiple organisations within a single business domain, we handle that.

James Dyke: Who’s your target audience?

Anthony Alston: The reason we’ve got the big companies in is because we want to be cloud based. We need companies like Amazon and Microsoft to help us manage that. But our target audience are traditional SMEs as that’s where the ideas and solutions come from.

Next to address the seminar was QinetiQ’s Tim Parsons. He began by explaining how communication is changing across many levels and, with that, come many changing cyber threats.

“There’s so much noise out there about this subject, so I want to strip the issue back to basics in order to see with a little more clarity what the issues are,” he said.

“Cyber has risen up the political agenda over the years – because we have seen that it may be possible to influence elections etc. The rise of fake news and economic espionage has raised public awareness.

“I want us to consider the tempo and volume of developing threats. An essential observation here is that if you have a distributed threat that can be amplified by a network, a hierarchal structure cannot cope with that threat.

“The nature of businesses has to evolve in order to cope with that threat, particularly by creating networks and organisations to respond.

“The other one then is the ease of the speed of the attack being so high they need to respond within a blink of an eye.

“The threat is also not just technical. The threat is evolving all the time into a mix of autonomous agents and individual actors within the spaces in which we all operate.

“Understanding the fundamental drivers behind these problems give us a better ability to provide the agility that businesses need to cope.”



Jess Antley: ‘Tech to enhance local networks for the community’ - what does that mean?

Tim Parsons: I’m very enthusiastic about how technology can enhance a community. There’s a real power to democracy for local initiatives. What tech is there for SMEs and what apps can we bring together? There’s room for innovation and initiatives around apps.

Duncan Sutcliffe: Things like this create positives, but the internet is an easy place for bad guys to jump into these things and overtake the things that the good guys do. What can we do to change our mindset to use freecycle etc. Or am I being paranoid?

Tim Parsons: No. You’re not being paranoid. As threat evolves, there’s a co-evolution which is where networks come into their own in sharing information. One could see a network of SMEs and larger businesses where they can help to immunise each other within that network through information sharing and having the ability to adapt quickly. If you’re isolated, of course, you face that threat alone.

Duncan Sutcliffe: Society can create all these ways to protect each other, but who’s really protecting us? It does seem that the advantage is with the bad guy.

Tim Parsons: Yes, you could say that, because it only takes one success on their part. We have to look at how we increase the cost to the malicious agent. Can we make that cost too much for them?

Sam Marshall: Paranoia does create many issues. People panic about the various messages they receive. And when you speak to older people – how many calls do they get about fixing their computer? These malicious agents feed on paranoia. Emails are getting so good now, that people find it hard to deduce what is fake and what is not. It’s got to come down to education.

George Hannah of Ericom was the final speaker of the session, and began by explaining how Ericom is one of the leaders in web security, cloud enablement and secure, naturally managed access to applications, desktops and data.

A third of NHS hospitals are using Ericom technology.

He explained that web browsers were a major attack vector in terms of deciphering where cyber attacks come from, and that an average of 2.4 browser vulnerabilities occurred within a business each day. He highlighted the Ericom Shield solution to cyber safety which operates successfully by containing threats and breaking them down, and therefore only allowing sanitised data into your network.



Tim Parsons: Is it a product or a service you’re offering?

George Hannah: It is a product.

Tim Parsons: So would it be possible to make it into a service for the SME community?

George Hannah: Absolutely. To look at the big picture, we could look into particular verticals that would make it a service without compromising other issues. As people are building a cyber security stack, then it is a possibility.

Tim Parsons: What’s your survival strategy in that respect, because someone will be offering this as a service at some point.

George Hannah: We are using established HTML technology. As a result of that, we have a lot of partners doing it. But in terms of finance, we are not going to be able to get them to use cloud. They want everything on site, so we have to be very flexible.

Dionne Oliver: How can local companies help with this?

George Hannah: It is about spreading the word, and making people aware that this sort of stuff exists. It’s also about getting people to use this as a piece of the pie that will help them build their cyber security stack.

Sam Marshall: I get told that many of these products slow their browser down. How does that impact with you?

George Hannah: If all your staff decide to go on YouTube at the same time, then yes, there may be some issues. But with normal use there will be no problem at all.

Sam Marshall: You don’t have to install? You use the existing server?

George Hannah: Yes. A fairly standard process.

Sam Marshall: You’re doing SSL? How do get around the certificates.

George Hannah: SSL certificates. Ericom Shield is doing the browsing, and that has the SSL certificate. We have a very elaborate way in which that SSL certificate works.

Sam Marshall: You don’t host the service?

George Hannah: We provide the product.

Next to speak was Worcestershire County Council’s Wendy Garrad, who explained to the group about the availability of Cyber Sector Growth Grants…

“I just want to explain what the council are doing to help SMEs protect themselves,” she said.

“We have EU funding to run a cyber security programme and how we can address vulnerabilities.

“Many companies will have IT support, but that is operating as a help desk. We have pulled together a programme to allow SMEs to get better support and get them up to cyber essential standard. “We have this strapline of trying to make Worcestershire a safe place to do business. “We’re getting a lot of information about secure cyber supply chains. “We’re trying to make Worcestershire businesses ready to be able to grow. “We’re also looking at our cyber sector – any company working with compute applications and technologies. And for that sector we have grants for up to £20,000 to enable that sector to develop and grow in whichever way they feel appropriate and enable other businesses to invest in tools and programmes they need.”

Duncan Sutcliffe: We got funding from the first round, and it was very useful for our business.

Wendy Garrad: That’s great to hear. We’re really trying to get the message out, so please spread the word.


{OPEN DISCUSSION} Introduced by Dionne Oliver…

Sam Marshall: From what I can see, Worcestershire is doing a lot of things right and certainly leading the way online.

Dionne Oliver: How can WINN help more businesses like yourself?

Sam Marshall: I think you’re already doing it.

James Dyke: For us, involved in recovery, it’s about getting a company back up and running as soon as possible. Access to customers is important to our business, and so these events are worthwhile for us.

Pierre Watson: I feel it's less about helping my business but rather, how do I use this knowledge across the network of people I'm meeting? Attending events like this forum is about helping my customers. Also, on Wendy's point, why not get the word out by telling it like it is and saying to SMEs, here's some free Cyber Security funding if you jump through some hoops, to help protect your business!

Dionne Oliver: What are your current challenges?

James Dyke: Getting new customers. Another challenge is when I speak to a potential customer and they respond by saying “we already have it”. It’s difficult to make them aware of the product and getting that awareness of it across to them.

George Hannah: There is an education issue there, isn’t there?

James Dyke: Oh yes. I speak with vets and dentists because I think they’re good vectors for us. When you consider all the data they process, how are they backing up that data? We need to get people to understand and be aware of the need for our service.

Wendy Garrad: We’re looking at staging an event around business fraud and data protection. We’re looking for speakers. If yourself or anyone within your organisation would like to take part or give a talk, you’d be more than welcome.

Duncan Sutcliffe: GDPR is a great opportunity for us. There was a story that said people were panic buying cyber insurance because of GDPR. Fantastic. Perhaps the approach should be one of collaborating with IT managers.

James Dyke: That’s exactly what I’m doing, and a lot of them have these systems in place, but getting them to appreciate that can be a huge barrier. The individual basis is a thing I’m trying to do as well, and I’m hopeful we’re going to move into that and use lots of small companies.

Anthony Alston: We like to do that sort of matching too.

Pierre Watson: How do I use my knowledge across the network of people I’m meeting? Attending events like this forum is about helping my customers.

Duncan Sutcliffe: You don’t have to dig very deep to see what a huge number of companies there are which are complimentary and working together and collaborating. I’ll be going to my clients later to say they really missed out by not being here today. There are so many overlapping organisations for businesses that want to network, and that can nurture young businesses. If WINN and all the other organisations can work together towards one goal and make Worcestershire great.

Steve Winstanley: I have thought that a few times. We’re based at the Chamber of Commerce. We’re really open to suggestions and comments. Our objective is to find what help and support people need, and we have a budget for helping those with ideas.

Jess Antley: What about AI, machine learning. How do we all feel about that? How do we future proof our skills?

George Hannah: The effects will be good. AI isn’t necessarily bad. If AI can do 80% of the work in 20% of the time it frees us humans up to do other things. AI can reduce the ‘grog-work’ so that users can be dedicating themselves to value-added work.

Duncan Sutcliffe: AI will bring lots of opportunities, but there is a real threat to us also. If I wanted to set up a small retail operation I would now need an awful lot of money to compete against the big boys who can afford all the technology required to be where they are.

Tim Parsons: Innovation happens on the cusp and joins of things. All the AI fields are converging to create opportunity. With the advance of AI, other opportunities will present themselves.

Anthony Alston: In the Home Office, they’re very interested in AI and deep learning. There are a lot of small companies out there who are involved in this. It isn’t something to be scared of, or something that’s exclusive to large companies.

{CONCLUSION} Presented by Jess Antley:

WINN has taken up the mantra that ‘great things happen when people get together’ and that’s certainly coming out of what we’ve learned today. Worcestershire has great strength within the Cyber and IT sector and today we’ve heard about lots of potential in this field.

Meanwhile, these are the core headlines we’ll be taking away today:

The Importance of:

Note 1:
"The importance of proactive ideas and horizon scanning within the problem domain of communications data"

Note 2:
"An applied Cyber AND Society approach for individuals to thrive and prosper"

Note 3:
"Businesses must evolve and Government needs to change for a cyber- physical convergence to emerge, that considers the mix of physical and cyber space"

Note 4:
"Drivers for change! Frameworks and trusted partnerships within decentralised networks"

Note 5:
"User freedom v's IT Security! Remote browsing isolation; how to isolate but still integrate"

Note 6:
"Be Cyber Secure Programme aims to maximise the cyber security of SMEs based in Worcestershire"

Note 7:
"Cyber immunisation! Networks sharing threat information; as the threat evolves so does the defence"

Note 8:
“Paranoia can be corrosive to a business; education and support required to master reactions and behaviours"

Note 9:
"Disaster recovery, it doesn’t have to be timely or expensive, but it is needed, with the market better educated to understand it"

Note 10:
"Sales gateway needed! Individuals and SME's needing support to get ideas to market"

Note 11:
"We all stand together! Future proofing with a cross sectional approach to collaboration"


The Proof of Concept Project has received £1,537,394 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, which £37,500 of this funding is supporting WINN events to promote innovation in Worcestershire. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

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WINN brings innovators together, acting as a catalyst to create connections and collaborations across the diverse business landscape of Worcestershire.

Our belief is that great things can happen when people get together.

WINN is a Worcestershire Innovation Programme formed by Worcestershire County Council and the Worcestershire LEP