Ethical hacking students have created a free resource aimed at bolstering the cyber defences of Scottish small businesses.

The students at Abertay University in Dundee have put together the ‘Cyber Strategy Guide for Small Organisations’ with tips and recommendations to support SMEs’ cyber hygiene.

The document contains guidance on a range of crucial cybersecurity topics including password protection, firewalls, secure configuration, and security audits.

The guide is designed to be user-friendly and concise, making it suitable for small businesses at any stage of their cybersecurity journey.

The new resource is the product of the university’s partnership with the Cyber and Fraud Centre – Scotland which is based in the Abertay cyberQuarter, a cybersecurity research and development hub in the heart of the campus.

The collaboration aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry, providing students with the opportunity to actively contribute to the centre’s professional cyber services and allow them to work on real-world scenarios and experience in a safe and controlled environment.

The students participate in a range of tasks, such as performing vulnerability scans on organisations’ IT infrastructure and participating in phishing resilience exercises. The hands-on experience enables students to develop key skills necessary for countering cyber threats in the real world.

Declan Doyle, head of professional services at Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland, and an Abertay Ethical Hacking graduate, said: “Our partnership with Abertay University is an exciting initiative that gives students the chance to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-world challenges while playing a crucial role in supporting organisations to counter cyber threats effectively.

“As a recent graduate, I know firsthand how committed the University is to providing opportunities for its students to gain industry experience, which I personally benefited from throughout my studies.

“We hope that this new guide serves as a valuable resource for small businesses looking to fortify their cyber resilience and will help them navigate the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape with confidence.”

As well as the new guide for small businesses, the students have developed a range of online resources for employees including  An Introduction to Cyber Security Guide which was published last August. 

The team also provide regular cyber threat updates for the Cyber and Fraud Centre’s Threat Intelligence Portal and the CyberScotland Technical Bulletin, which keep organisations informed on the latest threats and mitigation strategies.

The students at the Centre also engage with the Exercise in a Box programme, which offers organisations a hands-on opportunity to navigate realistic cyber threat scenarios, enabling them to assess their response capabilities, and identify areas for improvement.

Heidi Domagala, one of 25 Ethical Hacking students working part-time at the Centre, said: “My experience at the Cyber and Fraud Centre has been invaluable in enhancing my understanding of the pervasive cyber threats we encounter daily, often without even realising it. 

“Studying at Abertay University provides me with a solid foundation for acquiring the necessary skills to navigate the cyber world and working at the Centre allows me to apply those skills in ways that extend beyond the academic setting. By the time I graduate, I will have the confidence and capabilities to make valuable contributions to the field of cybersecurity.”