ethical hackers
Damon Rands

A co-founder of Cyber Wales, Wolfberry helps firms secure their computer systems against threats by attempting to breach their defences. It’s an exciting time to be part of this fast-moving and important field, says CEO Damon Rands.

Almost everything we do in modern life is managed and operated by computer systems. These systems are behind all our vital services, from hospitals to nuclear power stations. And because they’re all connected to the internet, they’re vulnerable to cyber-attack.

That’s where cyber security firms like Wolfberry come in. We’re ethical hackers: we test systems to find their weak points before the bad guys do. We fix them, and we educate organisations to understand the threats that their businesses face.

In the world of IT and technology, we’re used to companies understanding the importance of their computer systems operating smoothly. But operational ability doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with security. It’s worth thinking of security on a sliding scale: at one end is usability and the other end is security. The more usable something is, the less secure it becomes, and vice versa.

The risks are not always obvious. For example, we worked with one company that specialised in cleaning clothes. When we reviewed potential threats, we came up with a list of threat actors that included activists who might be very interested in hacking their systems. The reason? One of their major clients was the nuclear power industry.

It’s an exciting time to be working in this field in Wales. We’re very lucky to have the Cyber Wales cluster, a group of cyber security businesses that has groups for both North and South Wales. Just six of us went to their first meeting, but we now have over 1800 member businesses throughout the UK, and have been recognised internationally as a cyber ecosystem by GlobalEPIC. It’s expanding worldwide. We now have clusters in Dubai – where Wolfberry also has an office – and Japan. We’re looking at setting one up in Abu Dhabi.

Through the cluster, we can collaborate effectively, and this is great news for businesses in Wales who need our services. We’ve worked with other cyber security businesses on projects that previously would only have been viable if carried out by large companies. Now we can pool our resources, and I think that’s the reason we’re so successful. We’re not secretive and we like working together. Likewise, we’ve had great support from the Welsh Government, who have got behind us and helped to create this ecosystem.

Wolfberry collaborates closely with academia. We’ve done a lot of work with the Cyber Academy at the University of South Wales, which takes on real-world projects to upskill its students, and Swansea University. It’s all helping to address the critical shortage of cyber security skills across the globe – not just in Wales.

Because of this, recruitment can be a challenging task. We have to be careful to pick the right staff as our company grows and diversifies. We don’t just do systems testing any more; we also do network monitoring and governance. We’re hoping that projects like the Cyber Academy will become a talent pipeline for the cyber security industry.

As for the future, the sky’s the limit. A year ago, I didn’t expect to have an office in Dubai. We’re planning to expand and at least treble our workforce, but we’ll be staying in Wales. I’m proud to be Welsh, and I’m proud that my company is based here. It’s a wonderful place for cyber security companies because everything is on your doorstep, from fantastic broadband services to world-class universities – not to mention a wonderful quality of life.

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