A Dundee-based start-up is helping to tackle the devastating effects of cyber-attacks by offering vulnerable companies a proactive solution which could potentially save them millions of pounds.
CyberShell Solutions is already attracting attention from global companies as it rolls out its innovative early stage security analysis technology, CyberSuite, which was developed by computing scientist and entrepreneur Tayyaba Nafees.
The technology works by informing software developers of potential vulnerabilities in their IT systems at an early stage in the design process, allowing them to address and mitigate any issues before their software is commercially deployed.
“In 2017, seven out of ten organisations in the UK suffered a cyber-attack, which can have devastating and long-term financial consequences for a company. It can result in the loss of huge amounts of income or worse still allow the personal details of their customers to be stolen and exploited by cybercriminals,” said Tayyaba, CyberShell’s CEO.
“Many do now realise the issues around cybersecurity and are starting to look for solutions. The main challenge, however, is that the current approach is reactive. Rather than taking steps to prevent a cyber-attack before it happens, companies are responding to and repairing the effects of an attack after the event.
“What we provide with CyberShell is a first line defence - an innovative technique called Vulnerable Anti-Pattern, a software which identifies vulnerabilities at a very early stage, even before the development phase.
"Software developers are provided with a short, concise list of up to date best practice and what not to do. We then offer solutions on how best to eradicate the potential weaknesses in their systems.
“We are effectively bridging the gap between cybersecurity experts and the software engineers so we can develop secure software systems.
“The software market is so competitive at the moment, and this saves companies time and potentially a huge amount of money, as well as giving them confidence and peace of mind knowing that their company is secure.”
Born in Pakistan, Tayyaba studied computer science at Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, before winning a Global Development Scholarship to study software engineering at the University of Bradford. She then started studying for a PhD in cybersecurity at the University of Abertay in Dundee.
She applied successfully to take part in the 12-week Accelerator programme, run by Elevator at its Centre for Entrepreneurship, which is run in partnership with the University of Dundee.
Turning what she learned during her PhD into a commercially viable cybersecurity innovation has led to some very exciting developments in recent months for Tayyaba, who is just one of four people - and the only woman - to receive a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship 2018 worth £90,000, as well as a place on the UK Government’s Defence and Security Accelerator Programme and Cyber Bootcamp 101.
She has also been named one of this year’s 10 out of 200 young researchers participating in the 6th Heidelberg Laureate Forum from September 23-28, a networking conference where 200 young researchers in mathematics and computer science from around the globe interact with recipients of the Abel Prize, ACM AM Turing Award, ACM Prize in Computing, Fields Medal and the Nevanlinna Prize.
Tayyaba is in the process of fully launching her business. With plans to grow her commercial team Tayyaba is looking to rapidly grow the company.
She is currently in talks with a software developer and an ethical hacker and plans to start interviewing for staff early next month with a view to hiring four people by the end of her first year.
“It is quite interesting because my first degree was in software engineering. I then won a scholarship to study cybersecurity at Abertay and they taught me ethical hacking. I realised during my studies that, while I am really quite good at making software, I was also pretty good at hacking into it.
“There are currently not too many women involved in cybersecurity entrepreneurship in Scotland, so to have got this far is such a short time is all very exciting. I am very much looking forward to getting going.”
Recruitment is underway for the next group of Accelerator participants for the spring programme which will kick off in February 2019 in Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth.
First launched in Aberdeen in 2015, the Accelerator programme is for ambitious, innovation-driven businesses, founders and teams who want to improve their business offering, drive growth and explore investment potential at an accelerated rate.
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