We are delighted at the advantages we have seen in having SANS-trained volunteers and staff, and their own feedback has always been incredible.

Charlotte Hooper Head of Operations, The Cyber Helpline

Please share a summary of what the Cyber Helpline does.

The Cyber Helpline is a charity that supports those impacted by cybercrime and online harms, from scams and fraud to stalking and harassment and everything in between. With the power of volunteers and funding from within the cybersecurity industry, The Cyber Helpline has started a movement that empowers individuals to report, mitigate and recover from cyber attacks with a chatbot and helpline service.

How long has The Cyber Helpline been training with SANS Institute?

Our volunteers have done SANS training since 2022.

Why did The Cyber Helpline choose SANS as its preferred provider for cybersecurity training?

SANS is renowned for its cybersecurity training and certifications; their courses not only provide us with benefits, advancing our volunteer's knowledge through hands-on learning experiences, breadth of training and ongoing support but also give our volunteers - who are often early in their cyber career - a qualification that is recognised across the industry and an incredible opportunity to network.

This means that, with SANS support, we can give back to our volunteers, supporting them in their own careers and creating a workforce for the future of cybersecurity that is passionate about cybercrime and online harms with a solid skillset to make a change.

Why is it essential for an organisation like The Cyber Helpline to stay up to date on the latest cyber threats?

Our status as a charity supporting victims of cybercrime is important for a couple of equally important reasons.

Firstly, as a charity and due to the people we support, we are a target for unique threats. Our partnership with SANS supports us in understanding the threats facing our charity, how to keep up-to-date with them and what we can do to prevent them and be ready to defend against the worst-case scenarios.

Secondly, the threats facing individuals are rapidly changing and it is important for us and our volunteers to be able to follow this fast-changing landscape, especially as we are often one of the first to see new threats and trends in cybercriminals operations. SANS courses are up to date and relevant with instructors that are clearly actively engaged in the industry and passionate about being up to date. This means that our team come away from courses with the latest knowledge and is equipped to keep this up to date.

What advantages has The Cyber Helpline observed from having SANS-trained staff?

We are delighted at the advantages we have seen in having SANS-trained volunteers and staff, and their own feedback has always been incredible. The knowledge they have amassed has allowed them to support our service users at a new level.

Our team always come away from SANS courses with new ideas and information that they can pass on to the rest of the team, but one of the advantages we didn't anticipate was improvements in communication with our service users. Our service provides assisted self-help, so we don't remotely or physically access devices. This can be tricky in cases where we know that a more in-depth investigation is needed, one thing I have noticed in particular is that the SANS courses have equipped members of the team to better communicate with service users how to perform activities that might lead to crucial pieces of evidence - it might be knowledge they already have but don't know how to explain or perform in an easier format. This makes a real difference in the quality of police reporting and evidence that the service user can pass on and increases the chances of recovery and justice.

Are you able to provide a real-world example where security team members from The Cyber Helpline were able to apply the knowledge gained from SANS training?

Last year, we launched our Investigations Team - a significant new move for us which moves away from our assisted-self help model.

Our volunteer cyberstalking supervisor had realised a gap in support, where in many cases there was a potential to find crucial evidence and improve service users digital footprints through open-source intelligence investigations but there were barriers in place to the service users conducting these investigations themselves, even when guided by a trained volunteer, including the service users lack of knowledge, the time it could take without the use of tools, or the re-traumatisation that it could cause.

When he raised the need for an Investigations Team with us we knew it was something that needed to be done, with a plethora of volunteers passionate about OSINT, but primarily hobbyists, we reached out to SANS who supported us by training one of our passionate volunteers in SEC587 and SEC497 which has allowed us to build an Investigations Team led by a SANS trained supervisor. This allowed us to build an ethical process and internal training program, use the right tools and optimise our report writing to maximise the chance of justice and safety for our service users.