Accenture has chosen Scotland to locate a new global application security hub to combat the rising threat of cyber attacks on business and government.

The technology services and management consultancy has opened an application security hub in Edinburgh as part of its growing world-wide network of centres to safeguard clients from cyber risk.

Leveraging considerable local talent, and with a global reach, the new facility is a company ‘first’ and represents a corporate step change in addressing data loss, hacking and breaches. “This is a proud moment for Accenture in Scotland,” said Bill McDonald, the company’s MD in Scotland.

“We have a long history of helping clients with the most challenging problems of the day and the opening of the application security hub very much represents that next step in that journey.”

He added: “Security is at the heart of what many of our clients do – be they in the private or public sector; maintaining the integrity of clients’ data in this day and age is paramount to us as a business, and also crucial to our success moving forward.

“It is especially pleasing that Edinburgh will be the location for this work – where our critical mass of financial sector clients in the Central Belt, and deep talent pools at our local universities, make the city a natural choice for the venture.”

The centre will be headed by Marshal Luusa, Accenture’s Application Security Lead; based on a ‘hub and spoke’ concept, the dedicated unit will draw on skills and knowledge from Accenture’s own ‘hunt’ facilities around the world, including in Prague, Riga and Israel.

Crucially, it will also benefit from collaboration and co-innovation with ‘multilateral’ corporate partners, as well as leading Scottish universities, including Abertay and Edinburgh Napier, and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC).

Industry partners Deep Secure, Palo Alto Networks, Thales, Tanium and Micro Focus – as well as leading enterprise software vendors such as SAP and Oracle – will all work with Accenture on developing new and innovative ways of protecting companies from cyber risk.

“When you look at what’s at the heart of what we’re trying to protect – it’s data,” says Luusa. “That’s the crown jewels and that data is driven by applications; without applications you can’t really create identities, and without applications there’s not very much to effectively defend against.

“We feel that applications are at the core of everything businesses do and we’ve got to find a way to co-innovate more secure applications, especially for the growing and changing threat landscape.”

The centre will experiment and innovate with emerging decentralised ledger technologies (DLTs), such as Blockchain, and artificial intelligence tools, which can automate and speed up cyber detection rates.

According to Accenture’s 2018 State of Cyber Resilience report, targeted attacks on companies have more than doubled in the space of a year with 232 on average experienced by organisations this year compared with 106 in 2017.

However, actual breaches are going down as more organisations embed cyber security within corporate hierarchies: according to the report, one in eight focused cyber attacks got through in 2018, compared with one in three the previous year. There is still much to be done, though, as the report showed that 7,000 clients worldwide reported, on average, experiencing 32 cyber attacks last year.

McDonald added: “The effects of this on clients can vary from virtually shutting down operations to reputational damage, particularly in consumer-facing businesses where any data breach carries the risk of loss of confidence and negative publicity.

“Accenture believes it has a duty to protect clients from these risks and so I’m delighted to be launching this new facility in Edinburgh.”

Download a PDF of FutureScot Magazine in The Times Scotland 15.12.18.