Belfast-based Agio set for major expansion

  • Alan Stock, Head of Agio’s AI-driven Cyber Services, sat down with Sync NI to discuss how Agio has evolved since establishing themselves in Belfast over three years ago.

    Agio is a Managed IT and Cybersecurity service provider focusing on alternative investment and healthcare markets in the US. They currently have around 300 employees globally in New York, Oklahoma, Toronto, Belfast and Bangalore. Agio has almost 200 clients who demandan extremely high level of customer service, quick response times and technical competency.

    For Alan, effective Cybersecurity is about combining intelligent technology, robust processes and a high level of cyber awareness across the organisation. This should extend to partners, vendors and suppliers who can sometimes be the weakest link in your cyber strategy. “The reality is that cyber is about having strong technical defences in place, good cyber hygiene practices and encouraging user awareness. A lapse in concentration from an employee is more often than not the initial entry point for a cyber attack."

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    "Ransomware attacks are real and any organisation with a public profile should assume they will be targeted at some point. The main steps to take are to have an effective patching and vulnerability management framework, maintain up-to-date encrypted backups, enforce strong password and multi-factor authentication policies, commission regular pen tests, educate users continuously on the risks from social engineering and phishing attacks and have a well-defined and practiced incident response process in place. Together, these measures will reduce the risk of a successful breach and mitigate the impact if the worst does happen.

    In terms of AI, Agio is very passionate about the role it will play in the future of cybersecurity. They currently invest 10% of revenue annually in R&D through their Accelerator team and leverage AI at multiple levels. Firstly, their cyber platforms utilise AI and machine learning to detect and identify anomalies and assess if they are a real threat or not. However, none of these platforms are perfect and the threat landscape is continually evolving.

    Alan elaborated more on this: “What we are doing is building custom AI functionality on top of our platforms so that we not only detect anomalies but also build context around them and analyse them, which traditionally is a very manual process. A secondary role AI fills is that detections are often in a raw state and it can be time-consuming to interpret them and present them in an understandable format. Agio’s Accelerator team has custom-built a generative AI layer to integrate with our existing platforms which translates security alerts and events into more digestible communications for our analysts and for our clients. This is a big time saver for our analysts, enabling them to spend more time on threat detection and hunting”.

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    Today, Agio has around 40 employees working in Belfast and remotely across the UK but are planning to expand the team and are currently recruiting for a range of globally focused roles. Within their Managed IT division, this includes service desk and end-user specialists as well as network and cloud engineers. On the cybersecurity side, they have openings for cyber platform engineers, cyber SOC analysts and cyber compliance analysts.

    Although it is useful to have a degree or equivalent in IT when considering a career in cybersecurity, it is not essential as there are so many elements of the business that require other types of skills. Agio’s Cyber Governance division focuses on building cybersecurity programs for clients to help them improve their security posture and meet their compliance needs. Report writing, knowledge of compliance standards and strong client-facing consultative skills are a prerequisite for this track. Cyber Operations is a more technically focused function involving threat detection and response which requires a deeper knowledge of IT, networking and cloud technologies.

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