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Cyber criminals ‘now operating sophisticated business models’, leading experts warn

Grant Thornton and Barclays to host breakfast seminar on cyber security

The rapid rise of cybercrime means those behind it now operate ‘companies’ much larger than the firms they’re trying to exploit, according to leading experts.

The warning comes ahead of a breakfast seminar on cyber security which leading business advisory firm Grant Thornton and Barclays are set to host next month.

Cyber Security: Staying Safe’, which takes place at Barclays Eagle Labs in Belfast on 12th October, will focus on the race to safeguard individuals and businesses against cyber-attack as new digital technology makes it easier for criminals to commit fraud.

Andrew Harbison, Director of Forensic and Investigation Services at Grant Thornton, Martyn Lade, who works in Barclays’ Digital Security team, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Alistair Burns will be the guest speakers at the event. 

Andrew said:

“Cybercrime is an absolutely huge industry globally and those involved in it operate what really are large ‘companies’ formed with the aim of committing fraud.

“The image many people have is of a teenage hacker working alone, but it’s not like that. These are sophisticated businesses and those involved are highly organised - they have research and development departments, and run profit and loss accounts.

“More often than not, their targets are not big corporations, but rather small firms. For example, we’re increasingly seeing small accountancy and legal practices targeted so that fraudsters can obtain personal information on their clients.

“In 2015, it was estimated that cybercrime cost the economy in Northern Ireland around £100 million, but we believe the current figure is significantly more than that.”

Martyn Lade, who works in Barclays’ Digital Security team, will share Barclays’ latest insights on cyber security, and provide a live demonstration of Biometric Reader technology - a first-of-its-kind innovative solution, enabling you to log in and approve payments using finger vein reader technology.

Joanna McCardle, Relationship Director, Barclays Northern Ireland, said:

“Just as the digital age is opening up growth opportunities for companies across the globe, it also presents new ways for criminals to commit fraud. These cyber-criminals are employing ever-more sophisticated attack methods, which increasingly focus on corporate businesses. These attacks can vary according to the type of business targeted and the criminals are quick to find new ways to work around the banks’ responses.

“At Barclays, we firmly believe that all banks must invest in safeguarding their customers. In addition to our own internal systems and protections, we offer digital safety skills training and advice to businesses of all sizes. Barclays research earlier this year revealed that half of all recorded crime in the UK is cyber related, with a quarter of the individuals surveyed having experienced some form of cyber fraud in the past three years. The threat is real and it is a worrying one for businesses.

“By actively raising awareness of the potential vulnerabilities and by sharing simple checks and measures to protect against possible attacks, we take a differentiated approach to cyber-security, rather than just rolling out a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Barclays aim is to provide all clients with peace of mind when conducting their banking.”

The seminar will also hear from Detective Inspector Alistair Burns, of the PSNI, who will uncover how local businesses have fallen victim to cybercrime, and provide an outline of the common practices exploited by criminals, along with some simple steps to help protect your business.

Alistair added:

“Recent figures indicate just under 50% of UK businesses experienced a cyber incident in 2016. Be it ransomware, network intrusion, DDOS or business email compromise, Northern Ireland businesses continue to fall victim to a wide range of cyber dependant and cyber enabled crimes resulting in data loss, stolen funds, recovery costs and the potential to threaten local jobs.

“Working alongside national and international partners, the PSNI Cyber Crime Centre, with the support of local businesses can make a positive contribution towards  reducing the risks posed by cybercrime to the local economy.”

The event will take place on the 12th October at 8am in the Barclays Eagles Labs Belfast. For more information, or to book a space at the breakfast event, contact Natasha Agnew at or 028 9587 1123 or Julie Gray at