As it’s Cyber Month here at TechSPARK, and as we’ve recently launched Bristol & Bath Cyber, with a community manager in place to support the sector’s needs in our region, we wanted to outline what we mean by cyber, and more specifically cyber security.

Broadly, we define cyber as anything involving, using, or relating to computers, information technology, and virtual reality, especially the Internet. Within this, cyber security is how individuals and organisations reduce the risk of a cyber attack. There are over one hundred cyber businesses now operating in the South West, and this cluster is growing rapidly. You can see exactly where these organisations are on our newly launched cluster map in collaboration with Rocketmakers.

Why is cyber security important?

But we can delve deeper into the myriad of ways that cyber security is important. Firstly, it’s key to recognise that cyber security touches absolutely every organisation and individual alike within our tech community, but also beyond. As we live through the age of Industry 4.0, cyber security is already integral to our everyday lives. Escaping it entirely is near impossible, short of falling victim to hacking and phishing attacks. 

Cyber security’s primary function is to tangibly protect the devices we use from being attacked through theft or damage. With increased digitalisation across all aspects of our lives, it become a matter of protecting our identities, livelihood, and wellbeing. Everyone’s received a dodgy email that could lead to a phishing attack with one wrong click, everyone knows someone who has had their social media accounts hacked, or has had money stolen online. These can be traumatic experiences, and ones to be avoided, which is where education in cyber security is paramount. 

Secondly, cyber security also serves the purpose to prevent unauthorised access to the tonnes of data our devices harvest from our casual usage. It’s not unusual to question, why should I care about my data being used or sold? What’s the real negative consequence?

You may have seen the recent controversy around the data stored, and subsequently sold, on period tracking apps, a discussion which has been ignited in reaction to the US Supreme Court potentially overturning the Row v Wade law. meaning states can retract the right to abortion. And what does this have to do with cyber security? Well, it has been highlighted that data from period tracking apps could indicate if you’ve ‘illegally’ had an abortion and therefore lead to sinister consequences.

It’s easy to dismiss these examples of escalation if it doesn’t directly infringe on your own wellbeing in the present moment, but investing in cyber is one way we can prevent these extremes from impacting our own community. This is just one example how when data is compromised, it can go from having minimal personal impact to wider implications. It may feel far-fetched, but big data impacts real life politics in a way we should all be aware about.

What can we do about it?

There is often a perceived gulf between real life and our online presence, but this gap has essentially been closed for the average individual. Despite appearances on Instagram not being an accurate representation of someone’s life, the videos we watch the longest, the websites we browse the most, the places we go on Google Maps, and the money we store digitally all build a very true picture of who we are and what makes up these facets of our lives. This information is so easily manipulated in ways we might not consent to if we truly understood how.

Within all of this, there are specialists who are working hard to protect you from this digital crime, and part of Bristol & Bath Cyber’s job is to encourage collaboration to further increase the strengths of their outputs. We’re officially a UKC3 Cyber cluster, supported by the National Cyber Security Centre, with the ambition to close the skills gaps within cyber so we can expedite advancements in the sector and better protect our society. 

Cyber Community Lead at TechSPARK, Kerrianne Gauld, says, “Technology drives change, so it is inevitable that a tech ecosystem will develop its niche and, in the Bristol & Bath Cyber area, we are blessed with some leading-edge cyber technology companies, four Universities with a focus on cyber education and research, and a strong entrepreneurial mindset. It should also be mentioned that cyber security touches every business. Keeping data secure is now a fundamental part of business operations.”

If you’re interested in learning more about cyber, come along to our regular meetups to connect with the experts in the field and learn more through the engaging talks.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.