International conference set to confirm Belfast’s place as the cyber security capital of Europe

OWASP Belfast co-founder Gary Robinson pictured with  Invest NI's Peter Harbinson, OWASP co-founder Michelle Simpson and Laurie Scott of Visit Belfast
OWASP Belfast co-founder Gary Robinson pictured with Invest NI's Peter Harbinson, OWASP co-founder Michelle Simpson and Laurie Scott of Visit Belfast
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Belfast is set to cement its reputation as a European hotspot for cyber security expertise when it hosts one of the industry’s largest international conferences in May this year.

The OWASP AppSecEU 2017 Conference, which will take place at the Waterfront Hall and the Hilton Belfast, is one of the biggest events on the international cyber security calendar.

The annual event held previously in Rome, Amsterdam and Athens, is expected to attract more than 800 delegates from across the world, generating an estimated economic impact of £1m for Belfast.

The conference is aimed at IT professionals of all levels of experience. It includes competitions for students, along with talks for software teams to enhance their secure coding and ethical hacking skills.

There are also management level talks covering the issues of implementing cyber security processes in any organization involved in software development.

The conference is run by the Open Web Application Security Project – or OWASP – a worldwide organisation established in 2001 dedicated to improving the internet by creating and sharing freely-available articles, methodologies, tools and technologies in web application security.

OWASP’s Belfast chapter is one of the biggest in Europe, with more than 700 members and over 100 people regularly attending its sessions.

It plans to highlight the scale of the city’s growing cyber software experience to delegates from around the world.

“AppSec EU will be one of the biggest European cyber security conferences in 2017,” said Gary Robinson, co-founder of OWASP Belfast.

“It is a major coup to bring this event to the city and reflects Belfast’s status as a rising star as a worldwide cyber security centre.

“Northern Ireland tops the rankings for US foreign direct investment in cyber and the strength of the cyber cluster that is developing here has started to be recognised in the wider industry.

“Other cities have larger tech industries but if we in Northern Ireland concentrate our focus on cyber security there’s no reason not to believe Belfast’s enviable talent pool and the blend of local and global companies can make it the cyber security capital of Europe.”

Keynote speakers at the main conference on May 11 and 12 include some of the industry’s leading lights such as Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne and an internationally recognised professional hacker, Jaya Baloo, chief information security officer of KPN Telecom in the Netherlands and 2015 Cyber Security Executive of the year and Shannon Lietz, an award winning innovator, founder of the DevSecOps movement and DevSecOps leader for Intuit.

Talks from experts around the world will also be presented at the conference alongside training sessions, and a number of ethical hacking competitions.

In a change to the usual agenda, this will be the first time a major security conference will reach out to school children.

With the help of W5, the schools outreach will educate local 12 and 13 year olds on the cyber security industry and the prospects for future employment, allowing the conference to leave a lasting legacy in Northern Ireland.

Michelle Simpson, who also co-founded OWASP Belfast added: “Over five days we will have a superb opportunity to show hundreds of delegates from across Europe what Belfast has to offer and also to get fresh insight into the key trends facing the software and cyber security sectors in 2017.

“We believe Belfast can become Europe’s leading hub for cyber security within the next 10 years, if not sooner and AppSecEU 2017 coming to Belfast can only help us achieve that goal.”