In a world of extraordinary unpredictability, the cyber space continues to be a stage for conflict with attacks repeatedly disrupting businesses, organisations and critical infrastructure around the world. In fact, on average ten significant cyberattacks are recorded every month by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
Fighting back against the tide of cyber threats are Awen Collective, previous winners of the Cyber Den competition at the CyberUK exhibition, and collaborators with the likes of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Co-led by Executive and Co-Founding Director Daniel Lewis, the Caerphilly-based company have emerged as one of the foremost cybersecurity start-ups in Wales, thanks to a vast array of knowledge, expertise and software solutions.
“Awen aims to reduce the risks of cyberattacks to the services that we rely on daily such as energy, water, transportation and manufacturing” says Daniel. Many of these critical infrastructure facilities, such as oil and gas pipelines or water reserves, are sited in remote locations and may only be visited infrequently by maintenance teams. As such, operators are often only alerted to cyber threats and vulnerabilities after an operating technology system goes down.
Awen’s innovative solutions help monitor such facilities for anomalies and atypical behaviour that could potentially represent a malicious attack.
“Awen Collective is making software specifically for addressing those needs before an incident has an opportunity to occur. We are really reducing the risk and we’re giving those industrial organisations the opportunity to discover their vulnerabilities and actually do something about it beforehand.”
One such product that Awen boasts is Dot; a security-by-design technology which can quickly and effectively build a clear picture of modern and legacy infrastructure. Dot embraces the reality of OT environment constraints and provides solutions, as opposed to barriers, and helps scour for cyber risks and mitigates them.
An internationalised solution for a global problem, Awen Collective work across the UK, EU and around the world. Its innovation and technical excellence has made Awen Collective a part of a thriving cyber ecosystem in Wales. According to the National Digital Exploitation Centre, the Welsh cyber industry employs over 45,000 people and contributes more than £8bn a year to the Welsh economy.
“None of us can tackle the cyber security need of society by ourselves. We exist in an ecosystem and we are continually building a community of friends, to help solve these problems, together.”
The Cyber Wales group has more than 2,000 members, who gather to exchange information and share best practice. The group also works closely with the spooks at GCHQ and the MoD, as well as the NCSC.
Speaking about the sector in Wales, Daniel says, “Cybersecurity in Wales is thriving, we have one of the strongest clusters in the UK and in fact in Europe with plenty of cybersecurity, product and service companies. We also have a very strong academic sector within the sector. Wales is such a great place to be based because we’ve got such a strong community in cybersecurity here. We’ve got great universities which are training young people up in cybersecurity and in technology in general. We’ve got large and small companies within the sector as well which is really attracting the talent from around the UK so we have a very strong talent pool to access.”
The Welsh identity plays a big role in Awen, a company founded by Daniel whilst still studying at the University of South Wales; the team – which is growing rapidly – currently comprises of thirteen members, all of which are based in their Wales office.
To further this proud identity of Welshness, the majority of its tech team are Cardiff University graduates, where they constantly look to recruit for top, up-and-coming talent.
“Awen is very much a Welsh company, we were founded here, we’ve been growing here. It’s a really good place to do business and we feel like we’ll be here for the foreseeable future.”
This is of course compounded by the nature of support which the Welsh government has provided, transforming the cyber industry in Wales through advice, assistance and finance.
“We’ve had a lot of support from Welsh government and much of it has been very hands on, we’ve had support and guidance around international trade, finance and just growing our business here in Wales. It’s very good support to have here and I can't imagine a better place to have our business headquartered.”