Cyber security is a fast growing area in IT with a predicted global shortfall of 3.5 million skilled cyber security professionals by 2021.

Coupled with the fact that Northern Ireland is being billed as the number one location in the world for cyber security inward investment and the number one global destination for US cyber security companies with an eye for international expansion, it’s no wonder Belfast Met is adapting its curriculum to meet the growing demand.

Phil Allen, Curriculum Area Manager at Belfast Met tells us how these ‘hard-to-find’ skillsets are being nurtured at Belfast Met.

“Cybercrime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and with the emerging threat of online security breaches in today’s digital era, businesses are now regarding cybersecurity as a high priority issue.

“However, the cyber security industry faces a massive problem: there are simply not enough highly-skilled cyber security professionals and employers are struggling  to attract the talent they need to keep hackers and cyber criminals at bay.

“At Belfast Met we want to raise awareness of the shortage of cyber security skills and the opportunity of higher salaries for individuals with the right skills and qualifications.

“We are constantly adapting our curriculum to meet the growing demand for ICT specialists and are currently the only FE college in Northern Ireland to offer a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Cyber Security and a Foundation Degree in Cyber Security.

“Both courses provide our students with a qualification, validated by The Open University, along with practical skills and relevant work experience in the workplace, opening up exciting new career paths for them.

“The College is the first in Northern Ireland to offer a brand new qualification in Cyber Security through Cisco, known as Cisco Cyber Security Operations. Our entire team is now qualified to deliver this programme which is offered through a part-time course, as well as embedded in the full-time curriculum.

“We are also the first college to offer the following cyber qualifications – EC Council CEH, BCS CISMP, Comptia Security+ and Cisco Cyber Security Essentials.

“There has never been a better time to consider a career in cyber security or data privacy as the career prospects for cybersecurity professionals are only going to grow. It’s a career that promises a stimulating course of study, constant challenges and benefits, and a long future ahead.”

To find out more about the wide range of ICT courses on offer at Belfast Met, call 028 9026 5265 or visit


Phil Allen shares his tips on how to avoid being a ‘Social Media Nudist’


Millions of people use social media platforms every day to post information about their lives online and in doing so are often providing sensitive personal data which can leave them exposed to data breaches and in turn lead to fraud and identify theft – we are becoming a nation of social media nudists!

Known as social engineering, this is a tactic used by cyber criminals to gather as much information about the victim as possible. All forms of social media are used for this method. Details including  full name, address, names of parents, pets or partners, hobbies and career information are collected by the attacker from photos, social media posts and personal biographies. From there, the attacker can carry out numerous cyber-attacks such as password cracking, phishing emails and identity fraud.

Password Cracking


A young woman who is very active on social media and has lots of followers receives an email which includes her full name and address as well as an old email address and password.

The email says that the sender has access to her PC and all her information. It states that she needs to get in contact with the attacker and pay them to delete her information.

The password that was included in the email was her younger sister’s name and date of birth.

The woman contacts her IT support and informs them that she didn’t think this was her previous password. She is advised  to ignore the email and inform the police if there are any more demands made.

In this case, the lucky woman was advised not to contact the attacker, however a less technical user may just assume that the email is genuine and pay them.

Identify Fraud

Users of dating websites have reported that they are finding dating profiles which are using their profile pictures and information. Attackers access social media to steal photos and personal details so they can pose as the victim. An attacker may use the details to try and trick people you know into sending them personal or sensitive information.

This also happens on social media with people reporting that they are receiving friend requests from people who are already their friends.

Those who accept the request often find that their social media has been hijacked and their profile may be sending out malicious links.

Phishing Emails

If your social media privacy settings are not configured correctly people who you are not friends with or connected to on social media can see your email address. Alongside this, if you have lots of personal information available then you are leaving yourself open to password cracking attempts. Programs like CUPP or John the Ripper allow an attacker to enter your personal information and output a comprehensive list of thousands of potential passwords. Attackers can then use this to perform a barrage of attacks to gain access to your social media accounts.

Preventive Measures


To avoid becoming prey to social engineering attacks from cyber criminals, take note of these quick tips:

  • Try to keep personal information to a minimum. This means keeping information such as the names of your parents (especially maiden names, as this is a common security question), daily schedule, home address, email address, phone number and pet names off your social media.
  • Have your social media privacy settings on the highest security settings.
  • If someone you thought you were already friends with adds you on social media, contact them via text or phone to confirm that this is them.
  • Do not accept friend requests from people that you do not know.
  • Think before you post – if your post contains details which could compromise your social media security then do not, under any circumstances, post.

To find out more about the wide range of ICT courses on offer at Belfast Met, call 028 9026 5265 or visit

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