Neil Sinclair | National Cyber Lead | Police Digital Security Centre

NEIL SINCLAIR: An Expert in Counter-terrorism & Financial Crime

Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing threats to businesses. Additionally, 40% of businesses do not take any action to identify these cybersecurity risks. What can be done in such a situation? Neil Sinclair the National Cyber Lead at Police Digital Security Centre comes to our rescue. Neil has worked in UK counter-terrorism policing for over thirty years and has been involved in many of the Metropolitan Police’s biggest Terrorist Operations.

An Interview conducted between Neil Sinclair and Insights Success answers why he was considered as a key member of the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit and is now a major influencer for cyber security. Below are the highlights of the interview:

Kindly take us through your journey on becoming an innovative business leader.

Once a reputation begins to precede you, it becomes a case of spreading the word through as many channels as possible. Where the Police Digital Security Centre’s mission is concerned, this means encouraging small businesses to take simple cybersecurity seriously and, in my case, emphasizing that it does not have to be an expensive part of the business plan but that investment now, before becoming a victim of a cyber breach, is money well-spent, even though there is no obvious ROI.

The hardest part for me as the Cyber Lead at Police DSC is encouraging businesses to invest in our digital awareness and resilience programmes, and for vendors to appreciate the merit of our Providers accreditation.

Have you drawn professional inspiration from other business leaders? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

What a difficult question! I think Dr. Ian Levy OBE of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was a great inspiration in the beginning. He was billed as the “Rock Star” of cyber security and his very down-to-earth and accessible form of delivery did influence me. But the cybersecurity sector is huge and there are a number of people trying to do the right thing, and some do put it across very well. I think I now take a little bit from a number of people. The key, as in anything, is to listen and cut the filling from the good stuff. I base my delivery, whether to my Police DSC colleagues, my peers, or a wider audience, on keeping it simple, straightforward and, I hope, memorable.

Describe the company and its extensive solutions/services which address all the needs of its customers.

The Police Digital Security Centre is a not-for-profit company that is part of the wider security-focused Police Crime Prevention Initiatives. Police DSC is a small outfit but with a national reach. We work very closely with the UK Police forces and follow the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) guidance. Our unique selling point is that we actually go out to the High Streets and physically interact with small businesses (SME) that otherwise would not be aware of their digital risk or not know how to tackle it.

Of course, during the pandemic, we quickly and successfully moved this to online delivery but we are itching to get back to the real world! We offer a very simple, non-technical assurance for every business so that they can have some confidence that they are taking the right steps to be safe online, and have something that has resonance with customers and the supply chain – police backed endorsement. This is our Digitally Aware & Digitally Resilient schemes.

At the other end of the landscape, we offer a Digital Providers and a Digital Innovators certification. We have partnered with the world-renowned BSI (British Standards Institution) to provide cybersecurity vendors with a certification that demonstrates to potential customers that the vendor is reputable, trustworthy and that their products have achieved a demonstrable level of “doing what it says on the box”. In the long-term, I expect this to greatly empower the wider cybersecurity message and go a long way to joining up to ends of a fairly disconnected landscape.

What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship, and mentoring?

When mentoring, my knowledge and experiences do have a far greater value than I think it does (this is probably true for anyone who has stepped out from a career in Government law enforcement and intelligence services). People do want to listen and there really is no need to embellish anything.

From an entrepreneurial standpoint (which I honestly don’t consider myself to be) I do think it is vitally important to consider whether you have the drive and financial awareness to pursue the dream. I talk about this elsewhere. And leadership? Make sure you know your own people. It can surprise you who has extraordinary talent in unexpected fields, often way beyond their pay grade. But just because someone is brilliant at, for example, writing programmes doesn’t mean they’ll be able to sell it!

How do you cope up with capricious technological trends to boost your personal growth?

It has been a good learning experience. Technology is undoubtedly fast-moving and we are ever more aware of the unimaginable becoming reality in our field. But what I have seen is that the vast majority of businesses are still at the start of the cybersecurity journey. So talk of digital transformation, AI, even threat intelligence, is way down the list, not only of priorities but of awareness. The vast majority of businesses employ a tiny number of personnel and most are struggling to come to terms with two-factor authentication and installing adequate anti-virus.

What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?

I would like to see Police DSC make a significant impact on our target audience. I want to see more businesses demonstrating that they are doing the “right thing” where cybersecurity is concerned and an assured platform for security vendors. I would hope that my profile will continue to grow as I think it is inextricably linked to the Police DSC’s growth.