Cyber House Party was born in June 2020, when the full extent of COVID-19 restrictions were starting to sink in and we realized that the usual industry meet-ups at Infosecurity Europe, B-Sides and other events discussing malware, ransomware, along with privacy and security issues would not be possible. The idea was to create a parallel, virtual event to bring the cybersecurity industry together, share war stories, have a bit of fun and raise some money for charity in the process. Our main aims were to: improve the wellbeing of the UK’s cybersecurity community; encourage more people to get into the industry; provide a platform for UK non-profits; and to raise money for worthy causes. We were delighted to get some big industry names along, from security vendors, academia, events, government, the channel and leading CISOs.
What sort of topics were covered in the inaugural event?
Our first even back in June really set the tone for those to follow, in that we managed to attract a huge variety of experts to come along and share their thoughts and experiences with the virtual audience. We had an update from the National Cyber Security Centre, a couple of panel debates on how to kick-start a career in the industry, and more techie stuff like segments on ethical hacking and Room 404: our cyber equivalent of Room 101.
The focus is on informality and humor, and if attendees learn something from the evening, then that’s fantastic. Similarly, if they’re just there to network and take part in our legendary after party, then that’s great too! We had the likes of Trend Micro VP of Security Research, Rik Ferguson, Canon Europe Information Security Director, Dr Jessica Barker from co-founder of Cygenta, Quentin Taylor, B-Sides Director, Tommy Ballin, PenTest Partners Managing Consultant, Ken Munro, and the CISOs of Just Eat, Arqiva and Salford University.
Why has mental health become a defining issue over the past year?
I think that once COVID-19 has finally receded, if anything positive could be said to have come from the pandemic it’s that there’s now greater awareness of mental health issues. Extended government lockdowns have taken their toll on many people, especially youngsters and children. Calls to the NSPCC’s Childline service reached nearly 43,000 between March and October, with mental health concerns accounting for over a third, for example. A separate study reveals that suicidal thoughts rose from 12.5% to 14% among young adults during the early days of lockdown.
That’s why we’ve made the subject a core focus for our events – not just in terms of what we discuss during the presentations, but also the charities we’re raising for. Our second Cyber House Party on 29 October raised over £6,000 for mental health charity Mind and the NSPCC’s Childline. We’ve already had some fantastic feedback on the content itself. Custodian360 Global Channel Manager, Nikki Webb, got in touch to say our inaugural event was a “game changer” in helping her get back on the right track.
“Listening to the panelist’s honesty, hearing some of their struggles during lockdown, really made me realize that I was not as isolated as I had convinced myself I was,” she says. “It also made me realize that although I was having to adapt and do things differently I was not failing as badly as I thought I was, I was in fact adjusting to something no one could have been prepared for. This was a massive kick up the arse for me, well-timed and much needed.”
Why do charities need our help more than ever today?
Charities have suffered more than most organizations during the pandemic. A double whammy of surging demand for their services and a lack of fundraising opportunities has led one in 10 facing bankruptcy in the UK, according to one recent study. It claims that the crisis will lead to a £6.4 billion loss of income in the sector, with smaller charities particularly badly exposed. We’re proud of being able to help in some small part here by raising thousands for various worthy causes, although it’s just a drop in the ocean. There’s always more to do. During our next event we will be donating to homeless charity Trinity, alongside the NSPCC.
We’ve had amazing support from a number of organizations – far too many to mention: Pulse Conferences, Techvets, The Cyber Helpline and The National Museum of Computing are just some of these.
What’s happening this December?
We’re tremendously excited to be holding our first ever festive Cyber House Party on 17 December. Unlike previous events there’ll be no panel debates, just an opportunity to get together online to celebrate a unique festive season in a unique way – with plenty of laughs and some great DJs playing the after party. Most importantly, it’s a fantastic opportunity for organizations to donate a small slice of their budget that would otherwise have gone on office decorations and the work parties. We’re looking forward to seeing you all, and we’re hoping you can dig deep to help out our worthy causes this festive season.