For more than a decade, Reason Digital has been a digital agency that has partnered with charities, individuals and CSR leaders to combat society’s biggest issues with award-winning digital innovation. Their mission is to positively harness technology to impact people’s lives for the better, with Ed Cox CEO stating, ‘this is one of the reasons we are happy to get out of bed each day’.
‘Our team of more than 30 socially driven experts work alongside pro-social organisations to ensure our technology positively impacts and changes the lives of the most vulnerable. Whether it’s building a website, an app or innovating through design sprints or digital transformation, we’re committed to solving problems that actually matter.’
‘In essence, we partner with organisations that care, to create digital tools alongside people with lived experience. Together, we create lasting social good.’
The Cyber Innovation Inspiration
Reason Digital understood there was a need for security surrounding the data and information stored by charity organisations, with clear vulnerability, Reason Digital was inspired to explore how such organisations could benefit from cyber security.
Ed Cox stated, ‘We aimed to get a better understanding of how cyber security could help us; improve our internal production and Quality Assurance processes, identify opportunities for new products and services that could both benefit customers and offer us a competitive advantage in the marketplace, help secure our WordPress sites using trusted technology solutions.’
‘Cybersecurity is becoming more important but is still not widely understood. There have been high profile cases of websites being hacked, of critical IT systems being hijacked by ransomware, and of charity data being compromised. Given the vulnerable nature of many charity beneficiaries, and on the information held about them, this is clearly an unacceptable situation.’
‘Many small businesses and charities are just as vulnerable to attack but are often not equipped to either take preventative measures or to deal with the consequences of an incident. Clearly, this needs to change.’
With the ability to utilise the expertise from four North West universities, the collaboration with the fully funded Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry allowed Reason Digital to make the first steps to securing the cyber safe future for the websites of vulnerable, charity organisations.
The innovation, the impact and the benefits
The Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry team, with the University of Salford conducting their technical assist, supported the evolution of the idea to systemise and automate the process of checking and updating the security for Reason Digital’s clients, in a way that is more effective and efficient than was previously possible.
One of the challenges for Reason Digital was due to the nature of working within a busy agency environment, limiting their time and resources to understand the current cyber security environment’ and to analyse their existing approach to cyber security.
‘The programme helped us understand how we can improve the security of the websites we host, so our customers can feel confident that they’re in safe hands.’ Ed Cox said.
Reason Digitals innovation has never been more in demand as the evolution of the global pandemic has seen the acceleration of the digital transformation for many industries and organisations. Driving charities online with the closure of face to face services, the COVID19 pandemic resulted in ‘Attention mostly being given to technologies to enable people to get online rather than promoting best practice and safe behaviours once they are online.’
Reason Digital’s timely innovation evolved from collaborating with the University of Salford for the technical assist phase of the programme which helped to ensure the online safety for some of the most vulnerable organisations throughout a very high risk period.
Ed Cox reinforces, ‘Being on the course has encouraged us to think deeper about how we can protect charities and the people they help by going above and beyond the protections we currently employ and those offered as standard within industry standard software such as WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system.’
Ed Cox said, ‘As a business owner, the course helped me understand the potential of cyber security as a competitive advantage, not just in the form of improved internal processes, but as way of thinking about cyber security from the start of new product/service development, which has broadened my own creative process and approach to innovation within the business.
We regularly showcase the technology that was developed with the support of the University of Salford when talking to charities about starting new work and they are always interested to hear about how secure WordPress websites are as this is a known issue when presenting WordPress as a website solution.’
The programme experience
On completion of the Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry, Ed Cox describes the key benefits of The Greater Manchester Foundry partnership as gaining ‘Access to the diverse range of knowledge, talent and skills within the universities, particularly for the Phase two technical assist with the University of Salford, who were specialists on the topic and could commit time to be thorough in their research and execution.’
The highlight of the programme for Reason Digital was ‘Getting an understanding of the current thinking around cyber security risks and mitigation’s and being able to discuss the topic with academics in a safe environment.’
The advice for future SMEs
‘A knowledge of cybersecurity along with the threats and opportunities is essential for any business currently operating – or planning to operate – in digital spaces. This is becoming even more critical as more businesses are forced to adopt digital technology and work remotely as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses will be unprepared for the practicalities and the real dangers of conducting business online without the background information provided by Phase one of the course.
‘The course goes way beyond knowledge of the threats, by encouraging businesses to think about the opportunities to develop new products, services and skills.’
‘Cyber security is probably the biggest threat to business continuity after Coronavirus, but is not treated as such by many SMEs or charities, who should consider at least a basic understanding of the risks involved and the potential damage to their organisations as a result of an incident. Seeking out fully funded courses such as this to help fill these gaps, to get helpful advice and support, and to understand the issue is not insurmountable.’
The next steps…
When embarking on a programme with a strong partnership of four universities, it opens the doors to not only a network of SMEs, but a portfolio of programmes that can help evolve the business even further. Upon completion, the Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry team will advise, and propose eligible opportunities. For Reason Digital they are exploring ‘the further need to be supported in the form of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, placements or projects once the implications and outcomes of this project are fully understood.’