The world of cyber-security is thankfully becoming mainstream as the threats are better understood by businesses and individuals.
When the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) became an open, public body we made the decision to assist in raising awareness.
One such example was a story about us in the Times newspaper on the subject of Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures (TSCM).
In the vernacular this is known as ‘bug-sweeping’ and sounds far more glamorous than it really is.
Following the publication of the Times article we were contacted by a Sky News security researcher who said they were thinking about running a feature on the subject.
They wanted to run it between Christmas and the New Year and asked to film our team in action.
We suggested that they could film at our own flat in London, or nearer to our HQ in Poole, Dorset, either in a flat or on a superyacht – we are doing more and more work on yachts.
For practical reasons the Sky team came to a flat in Poole where we brought along much of the equipment we use.
There was a team of three from Sky; a cameraman, producer and reporter Tom Cheshire, who clearly knew his subject.
In total they filmed for about two-and-a-half hours for an item that ran for a little over two minutes.
They interviewed me about the business and the variety of work we do in the public and private sectors.
I explained that we were one of the very first companies to be certified by the NCSC and that our commercial work has grown significantly and we are assisting many businesses with Cyber Essentials certification and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Tom also asked me to run through the types of devices that are typical of the ones we might find while ‘sweeping’ a location.
James Moos, our Technical Security Group lead, was also interviewed and gave an overview of how we approach a Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures job.
Gaz Watkins, who was trained by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in this sphere of detection, explained the detail of how a sweep takes place.
We have numerous staff fully trained and highly experienced and the number of enquiries we receive is growing rapidly.
The cameraman did several takes and it was interesting how much detail he retained between shots so that a new take would look the same as the previous one.
If I held something in a different way, he would spot it immediately and ask me move it to where it was previously.
We had brought along a host of different ‘bugs’, including ones in plug sockets, air fresheners and smoke alarms.
For a news item attracting viewers this is the exciting area because people are familiar with ‘bugs’ from spy films and suchlike.
We explained that the glamour-side of the work is a fiction created largely by Ian Fleming and his James Bond character and in truth it is a hard, laborious, time-consuming task usually carried out at night.
Sweeping a four bedroom house will typically take up to 20 hours, depending on its size.
For the camera we ‘detected’ a bug in a plug socket and one in an air freshener in the kitchen.
We were not able to accurately portray the realities of a full sweep for practical reasons and because there were things we did not want to give away, but the item certainly gave a flavour of what happens.
I was also asked what this area of security will look like in 10 years’ time. It is very difficult to answer because things move so quickly.
Everything depends upon the battery, sensor and transmission in these ‘bug’ devices and with all three elements improving it’s hard to gauge where we will be in a decade.
I was aware which day the item was aired because I woke to find dozens of messages from friends, family and former colleagues from the military.
It ran all day on Sky News and has alerted many people to the threats involved. You can watch it here.
Our decision to become more open and try to alert people to the dangers of cyber attacks and other scams has seen us feature many times in the local media, for example here, here and here, but also in the national papers, here, here and here, as well as on national and local radio.
With the broadcast media now helping to raise awareness, together we can make it much harder for cyber criminals.