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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X037282/1
Title: Enhancing Cyber Resilience of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises through Cyber Security Communities of Support
Principal Investigator: Furnell, Professor SM
Other Investigators:
Nurse, Dr JRC Bada, Dr M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
(ISC)2 Centre for the New Midlands Chartered Institute of Info Security
Cyber Resilience Centre for London Eastern Cyber Resilience Centre Home Office
The IASME Consortium Ltd
Department: School of Computer Science
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2023 Ends: 28 February 2026 Value (£): 691,374
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Human Resource Management Information & Knowledge Mgmt
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
20 Feb 2023 Cybersecurity Research Institutes Research Projects Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are a vital element of the economy, accounting for 99.9% of UK businesses, generating three fifths of employment and turnover of £2.3 trillion. They are a crucial asset requiring protection as part of our overall national resilience. Unfortunately, the UK Cyber Security Breaches Survey indicates that half of small and a third of micro businesses experienced breaches or attacks in the last year. Moreover, while they frequently seek external guidance in relation to cyber security, they do so via a huge range of sources, and often find themselves overwhelmed with information and unable to understand the advice. Research is required to better understand SME needs and the perspective of those that they turn to for support, and to then use these insights as a foundation for the design and evaluation of a new and more accessible approach.

The research begins with an investigation of the support needs of small businesses, to establish their current understanding and confidence around cyber security, and their awareness and perceptions of available support. The investigation will seek to determine the scenarios in which cyber security advice is sought (e.g. during product evaluation, at point of purchase, in response to threats and incidents), and whether it is deemed effective. In parallel, the project analyses support routes available to these businesses, with focus upon the coverage and consistency of advice, as well as the confidence and capacity of those providing it. This will include a range of online and in-person sources, in order to capture the diversity of routes that businesses themselves tend to pursue, and will include those specifically designated to provide support (e.g. Cyber Resilience Centres) and those that may find themselves facing cyber security queries when potentially less well-placed to handle them (e.g. retailers).

From these foundations, the research then conducts more detailed analysis of business and advisor experiences by tracking individual support journeys as they occur. This offers more direct intelligence on the nature and volume of support being sought, as well as the extent to which the requests led to an effective outcome. The analysis delivers a series of case studies identifying factors that led to successful or unsuccessful outcomes.

The findings inform activities to enhance support provision through the design, implementation and pilot evaluation of Cyber Security Communities of Support (CyCOS), representing local collaboration and cooperation between SMEs and advisory sources. The foundations include the creation of an online Support Broker, enabling the SMEs to identify support needs and contact advisory sources positioned to help them (which, as the community develops and grows in experience, may include peer support from other SMEs). In parallel, the project offers upskilling opportunities for advisors and interested SMEs, via foundational cyber security certification to increase their related knowledge and capability. The project will then trial the operation of the CyCOS via three pilots. This will enable practical evaluation of the approach, culminating an established and repeatable model that can then be adopted more widely.

The delivery of the research is supported by relevant industry partners, including those providing expertise and resources to support the CyCOS, and those offering channels for engagement with the SME community. Partner representatives will form an Advisory Board, meeting regularly throughout the project, offering input and feedback to further guide the activities.

The resulting 30-month project contributes to national resilience by addressing an area of existing vulnerability and potential compromise. It will enhance understanding of SMEs' cyber security support needs and the ability to address them, while enabling SMEs themselves to recognise and embrace a core aspect of their digital responsibility.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk