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In the context of the Belgian Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), on 27 July 2022, the FPS Economy launched five calls for projects to strengthen the cyber-resilience of SMEs (< 50 FTE), including the self-employed, active in traditional (non-technological) sectors and with a low level of cybersecurity maturity.
This action is carried out under the supervision of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Telecommunication, Mrs Petra De Sutter; and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Self-Employed and SMEs, Mr David Clarinval.
The use of new technologies is growing and has become common practice in an increasing number of economic sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the take-up of digital habits, notably by increasing the use of e-commerce, but also in terms of remote working and contactless payment. The health crisis has also highlighted the vulnerability of small and medium-sized enterprises across all sectors and led to a proliferation of cyber-attacks.
SMEs often lack the in-house expertise to recognise cyber threats and are at a disadvantage compared to larger organisations in terms of costs, impact, etc. In addition, few SMEs have developed cyber strategies or "cyber reflexes". Consequently, it is necessary to raise the awareness of companies and workers about the importance of cybersecurity and to support them in increasing their cyber-resilience.
What themes were wanted for projects to strengthen the cyber resilience of SMEs and the self-employed?
Project leaders could submit a project via five different calls for projects (four at national level and one at regional level, itself subdivided into three lots, one per Region):
National call for project – Theme 1: Organisational measures.
The objective of this call was to raise awareness and stimulate action among SMEs regarding the importance for them to have a clear view of their cybersecurity situation and their capabilities to prevent and react to a cyber-incident as an organisation.
National call for project – Theme 2: Technical measures.
The objective of this call was to raise awareness and stimulate SMEs to take action on the importance of using the right defence tools, keeping them up to date and being able to interpret the results.
National call for project – Theme 3: Training and access to skills.
The objective of this call was to train SMEs and enable them to determine the best route to access the necessary cybersecurity skills.
National call for project – Theme 4: Professional support.
The objective of this call was to provide professional support to SMEs in improving their cybersecurity, in a way that is complementary to what is provided through the other calls for projects.
Regional call for project – Theme 5: Specific cross-cutting projects.The objective of this call was to improve the cybersecurity (awareness, skills, support,...) of two specific groups of SMEs:
- SMEs managed by women entrepreneurs and
- local retailers.
The projects had to be developed from a regional approach, in a way that was complementary to the actions already carried out by the regional authorities of the region concerned.
The four national calls for projects (themes 1 to 4) had the same conditions. Only their objectives were different.
The regional call for project (theme 5) had specific conditions, in line with its regional scope.
Who could submit a project?
These calls for projects were open to organisations and companies, as well as consortia, wishing to contribute to the cyber resilience of SMEs and the self-employed through specific initiatives.
Project leaders (by project leader, we mean an organisation/company or the combination of one or more organisations/companies) had to demonstrate that they:
- have expertise in the field of cybersecurity and SMEs;
- are aware of the needs of the target group;
- have experience in developing an offer for this target group.
These calls were also open to organisations and companies from other EU Member States.
The required expertise, knowledge and experience could be provided through subcontracting with third parties (maximum 49% of the total project budget).
Results of the calls for projects
The names of the winners of the various calls were officially announced on 31 May 2023 in the presence of the two competent ministers.
National call for project – Theme 1: Organizational measures
Syndicat Neutre pour Indépendants and SafeShops.be – BeCyberSafe
BeCyberSafe is a training program that offers general and specific knowledge in three different formats to familiarize traders with the organizational issues and sensitivities of e-commerce. Numerous experts share their knowledge through webinars, podcasts and a written reference work so that traders can make their webshop a safe and reliable place.
Unizo – ORG2CS – Organizational measures
The ORG2CS Organizational Measures project aims to develop a basic cybersecurity guide for SMEs and all stakeholders, with the ultimate goal of supporting them in increasing their cybersecurity maturity. This is done through fostering awareness regarding the importance of security, having a clear understanding of their cybersecurity status and getting the opportunity as an organization to prevent a cyber incident and how to respond to it.
National call for project – Theme 2: Technical measures
Jimber – Network Isolation
Many companies are affected by cyber-attacks. A poorly secured network allows the hackers to quickly take control of the entire network. Network Isolation offers a robust defense mechanism at the highest level, enabling companies to enhance their network security measures efficiently and cost-effectively, without the need for substantial investments in expensive hardware. Built upon the foundation of the zero-trust principle, Network Isolation adopts an approach where trust is not assumed, and everything is subjected to rigorous verification.
National call for project – Theme 3: Training and Access to Skills
CyberWayFinder – Learn, Secure, Repeat
Since its establishment, CyberWayFinder has always been committed to imparting the principles of cybersecurity to its students. From now on, they are expanding their target group to SMEs, who play a central role in our economy, but who also have great training needs for the protection of their data. Over the course of the next two years, SMEs are invited to participate in training courses in the Brussels Region.
Fédération des Entrepreneurs Généraux de la Construction – Promoting cyber resilience of SMEs: the quick building blocks of (more) cyber secure business operations
In recent years, the digital revolution and the widespread adoption of new technologies have provided cybercriminals with increasingly innovative avenues to access sensitive company data. Yet most entrepreneurs still seem insufficiently aware of the possible impact of a cyber-attack on their company. That is why the Fédération des Entrepreneurs Généraux de la Construction (Federation of General Building Contractors) has decided to list a number of practical tips and tricks to help companies improve their cyber security.
Headmind Partners Belgium – Be Aware. Your safety is our success!
Headmind Partners, a cybersecurity and artificial intelligence consulting firm, specializes in delivering cutting-edge and impactful cybersecurity education for employees. With over 15 years of experience in this field, Headmind Partners offers innovative crisis and awareness workshops designed as engaging "escape games”, to test/correct the good practices and reflexes of each company’s employees, ultimately bolstering the company’s cyber resilience.
Nviso – CyBErWise
CyBErWise aims to help SMEs and individuals learn and test safe behaviors that apply to everyday situations that will protect their business and their customers. It combines online games and shows at professional events to help participants discover for themselves how prepared they are for cyber threats and identify resources that can help them improve their cyber security.
Psybersafe – Psybersafe. Behavioural science based cyber security awareness training
Psybersafe is an established online training program that focuses on facilitating behavioural change. Most successful cyber-attacks are caused by simple human errors. It is therefore important that organisations invest in quality and long-term training that encourages people to change their ways and behaviour. Designed by behavioral science and cybersecurity experts, Psybersafe delivers measurable learning through short, engaging episodes that have a proven impact, making people a true first line of defense.
Sirris, Howest, VUB et UCLouvain – CyberActive. Activating cybersecurity skills in value chains for manufacturing and digital services
The CyberActive initiative aims to increase the cybersecurity skills of SMEs and the self-employed in two ecosystems: industry and digital services. It aims to strengthen cyber resilience across Belgium through a range of valuable resources:
- 2-hour training courses,
- educational presentation material,
- instructional films.
The consortium consists of four partners with proven expertise in cybersecurity: Sirris, Howest, UCLouvain and VUB.
Xerius Contact – Cyber-secure business
Through interactive online training and live webinars, entrepreneurs can acquire the essential skills necessary to defend themselves against cybercrime. This trainings allow for the following topics to be discusses:
- network and system security,
- new legislation and technologies,
- relevant current events.
After this free training, entrepreneurs know perfectly how to secure their online systems. In addition, they can entrust more targeted tasks to their IT suppliers.
National call for project – Theme 4: Professional Support
Cresco Cybersecurity – Cybersecurity Improvement Trajectory
The project consists of a comprehensive journey towards cybersecurity enhancement, accompanied by an interactive case study guide. During the cybersecurity improvement journey, companies will receive valuable assistance in assessing their current level of cybersecurity and how to improve it. The interactive case study guide will comprise real-life scenarios derived from the outcomes of the cybersecurity journey, offering practical insights, detailed quick wins, and effective tools to elevate the cybersecurity maturity of SMEs.
Jimber – Light Security Audit
Belgian SMEs are confronted with cybercriminals on a daily basis, who exploit their limited awareness of cybersecurity. During the Light Security Audit, Jimber unleashes their ethical hackers on the commercial network of the SME. This gives the SME a complete picture of the weak links in its network.
Regional call for project – Theme 5: Specific Cross-Cutting Projects
Centre IFAPME de Charleroi ASBL and CreaD ASBL – Cyber-week
Cyber-week is a one-week program aimed at raising awareness, offering training and providing support in cybersecurity for women entrepreneurs and local Walloon traders. This week offers them free webinars and training workshops, as well as online and face-to-face guidance from experts. It’s now or never to strengthen your company’s online security at a low cost.
Additional information, including details on how to participate and access project-related links, will soon be available on mapmecybersecurisee.be.
For more information, please contact the project team:
FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy
Directorate-General for SME Policy
Directorate Europe and Entrepreneurship
Department Europe and International
4th floor, office 04B23/24
Rue du Progrès 50,