Leading Scottish telecoms company HighNet has been shortlisted for a major award from an influential UK Parliament group.

David Siegel MD HighNet

HighNet, with operations across Scotland including Inverness and Glasgow, is one of 12 finalists vying to be named National Responsible Business Champion for 2018.

The shortlist announced by the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsible Group (APCRG) features companies nominated by constituency MPs and includes De La Rue, the company that makes UK banknotes and passports; munitions giant BAE Systems Land UK; and books and stationery retailer WH Smith.

HighNet is one of only three Scottish companies to make the list and the only one in the Highlands.

It was nominated as a constituency responsible business champion by Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Drew Hendry.

Mr Hendry’s recommendation acknowledged HighNet’s success in supporting local charities and youth projects; working with the University of the Highlands and Islands to introduce young people to careers in telecoms; supporting the region’s media awards through sponsorship; implementing a green energy programme for its vehicles and office practices; setting up an online HighNet Academy for the training of its apprentices; and breaking the industry norms on the recruitment of young people and women.

David Siegel, managing director of HighNet, said: “We are very honoured to have made the shortlist for the national award and to be in such exalted company.

“Our ethos is centred on Plain Sailing where we deliver smooth and easy progress for our customers and staff. Our growth plans have corporate responsibility at their heart and we will always seek to operate in a way that is socially and environmentally conscious.”

The national winner will be announced on 4 July in Westminster.

In selecting companies for the national award shortlist, Parliamentarians looked for companies that are: supporting the local community; investing in healthy workplaces; offering apprenticeships and training; working to reduce their environmental impact; and working with suppliers & SMEs to support responsible business practice. The criteria for the 2018 national award reflect the fact that the Group is encouraging large companies to support smaller companies as they develop and implement responsible business practices.

Baroness Greengross, who co-chairs APCRG, said: “Each of these excellent companies thoroughly deserved the endorsement of their local MP as their Constituency Champion and I congratulate them all on being short-listed for our national award.  Yet again we have a very strong shortlist, which includes businesses large and small and from a wide variety of sectors from arms and aerospace to knitwear and senior care.” 





Leading communications provider HighNet is the first Scottish company to be awarded a new quality accreditation to recognise its high standard of care to telecommunications customers.

HighNet is one of only two UK firms to be awarded a Mark of Excellence for Regulatory Compliance by the Federation of Communications Services (FCS). It follows a rigorous independent audit of the company’s key processes and paperwork to demonstrate it complies with all relevant telecoms regulations, including the General Conditions of Entitlement.

Brionaidh Siegel, HighNet’s Service Delivery Manager, said: “We are very proud to be the first company in Scotland to be awarded the Mark of Excellence by the FCS.

HighNet service delivery manager Brionaidh Siegel


“Achieving this high standard is what sets us apart from other companies. For our customers it is plain sailing dealing with us as it gives them peace of mind knowing they are receiving the best possible service from a reliable provider.

“Customers who choose non-compliant suppliers, unlike us, risk getting tied up in long contracts with no proper fault-handling procedures in place.

“We take our compliance responsibilities very seriously and it is rewarding to be recognised for reaching and maintaining such high standards.”

The FCS awards the Mark of Excellence accreditation only to providers that meet best practice and outstanding service standards.

It is a member-driven accreditation that helps holders distinguish themselves from the multitude of communications providers. Companies who have undertaken regulatory compliance training with Train to Win.tv can opt to have a review of their compliance with industry regulation and, should they wish, proceed to attaining the award.

Attaining the standard demonstrates to the marketplace a provider’s compliance not only in their key documentation but with all relevant industry rules and regulations. The Mark is only awarded by the FCS once all documentation has been independently audited to show that full compliance has been achieved.

Itret Latif, interim CEO of the FCS, said: “We are delighted that our members take their compliance responsibilities so seriously and wish to work to attain this standard that sets them out as serious, quality providers.

“Special congratulations to HighNet and we look forward to more members coming forward to work with our supplier, Train to Win, and attain these high levels of compliance.”

Julie Mills, Director, Train to Win, said: “Congratulations to HighNet for being one of the first companies in the telecoms industry to be recognised for being compliant with relevant regulation and demonstrating their commitment to both their customers and fellow players in the market, setting the standard for others to aspire to.”

In April, HighNet was declared Constituency Responsible Business Champion by the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group for its work in the community, as well as working practices that benefit employees and customers.

It will be one of the Scottish representatives competing against other constituency champions around the UK at Westminster on 4 July.


Two of Scotland’s leading companies in the telecoms and IT sectors have confirmed a new strategic alliance which will see them deliver enhanced connectivity solutions for businesses in Edinburgh and the wider UK.

Icelantic, based in Edinburgh and HighNet, which has offices and a presence across Scotland, are set to provide IT, voice, data and mobile solutions to businesses which are founded on a superior security platform that protects against increasing global cyber attacks, backed up by a multi-million pound digital infrastructure built by HighNet.

Icelantic’s Duncan Reid and Simon Forrest with HighNet’s David Hogg (centre).

Together, the companies have thousands of customers all over Scotland and in UK cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and London. Their workforces add up to nearly 100 staff and HighNet is currently recruiting on a number of levels to cope with demand.

Duncan Reid, co-founder of Icelantic said: “Cyber attacks are dangerous and one Edinburgh hospitality firm lost £150,000 due to a computer virus that manipulates on-line banking. So it is a serious issue.

“However, we believe that top level security should be the norm, not the exception. That’s why we’re delighted to announce this strong alliance with HighNet which makes great sense, especially as we have similar approaches to delivering for customers. We are both determined to supply secured IT and connectivity, but we also want to help businesses grow, increase revenue and save costs by delivering innovative and flexible solutions.”

David Hogg, head of sales at HighNet said: “We are extremely pleased to be announcing we will be working in close alliance with Icelantic in Edinburgh and further afield. Our joint delivery will see us providing customers in a wide range of business sectors with IT and connectivity solutions that take advantage of new developments in digital and gigabit technology which save costs and increase speed.

“This enhanced approach to strategic alliances is how all channel partnerships can work and we will look to our partners elsewhere in the UK to build similar routes to market.”

Icelantic is owned by Duncan Reid, Simon Forrest and Neil Grant, and was set up in September 2000 to look after servicing SMEs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The company has grown considerably since then and is particularly adept at meeting the needs of businesses who can’t justify the expense of supporting and managing a large IT staff but who still require reliable, secure, high-performance information systems. The company has the experience and expertise to design and support IT solutions at every level.

HighNet provides voice, mobile and data solutions which are backed up by their independent digital infrastructure, as well as 24/7 UK-based support.

The two companies are already planning a series of new developments, leading with tourism, that will take place over the coming months in Edinburgh and in other parts of the UK.

Royal Dornoch IIP Promotion

We are delighted to have been promoted to Gold accreditation level for Investors in Young People and also Silver accreditation for Investors in People.

The club was first recognised as an Investors in People organisation in 2001 and the Investors in Young People award was gained in 2015.

Since then a new and more rigorous framework was introduced and the club was re-assessed late last year when staff from all sections of the operation were interviewed.

The assessment report says the club continues to enhance working practices and focus on continuous improvement and future sustainability under the steady leadership of Neil Hampton.

It says that, of notable improvement over recent years, has been the cohesiveness of the greenkeeping team and the continued focus on supporting young people in the area and from further afield through links with UHI and other clubs.

Ongoing investment in capital projects has also served to further enhance morale and people are proud to work for the club. It adds: “The impact on the local area is highly positive and (the) investment in people not only supports the club but also the sustainability of the Dornoch area.”


Leading Scottish telecoms company HighNet has been declared Constituency Responsible Business Champion by an influential UK Parliament group.

David Siegel, managing director of HighNet

The award is recognition for its work in the community, as well as its working practices which benefit both employees and customers.

The announcement comes as part of Responsible Business Week (23-27 April) which commends companies from around the UK for their high standard of business practices.

The All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group (APCRG), which has provided the award, was created to highlight and reward companies for responsible business practices which go beyond mere compliance with legal and contractual obligations to support their local communities.

As a constituency champion, HighNet now qualifies as one of the Scottish representatives that will also take part in the national award event which the APCRG will host at Westminster on 4 July. This will see constituency champions from around the UK compete for the national title. HighNet was nominated for the constituency of Drew Hendry MP (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey).

HighNet was recommended to the APCRG by Drew Hendry MP because of the company’s success in supporting local charities and youth projects; working with the University of the Highlands and Islands to introduce young people to careers in telecoms; supporting the region’s media awards through sponsorship; implementing a green energy programme for its vehicles and office practices; setting up an online HighNet Academy for the training of its apprentices; and breaking the industry norms on the recruitment of young people and women.

Said Mr Hendry: “HighNet is implementing ground-breaking practices which make it an excellent example of corporate responsibility. The company thoroughly deserves its nomination and title of Constituency Responsible Business Champion.

“I’m sure HighNet will be well regarded at the national award ceremony in July. Its work with young people, the success with inclusivity and its care for the environment are all worthy of recognition.”

David Siegel, managing director of HighNet, said: “We are delighted to receive this award. Corporate responsibility is very important to us and it touches all areas of our business. Our ethos is to deliver plain sailing in everything we do, which translates into smooth and easy progress. That is made possible by giving proper care and attention to our corporate responsibilities.

“At present, 48 per cent of our workforce is aged 29 or under and this financial year alone we recruited six apprentices across the business who are currently undergoing admin and IT apprenticeships.

“The norm for levels of women working in our industry is 25 per cent, but at HighNet it is 39 per cent. We’re also implementing a green energy programme for our company vehicles which will see us use hybrid technology and create electricity charging points at our Inverness head office.

“We look forward now to also attending the national award event and continuing our commitment to corporate responsibility.”


A world-renowned golf club is supporting a pioneering project that will help prevent part of its course succumbing to coastal erosion by rebuilding natural defences.

A number of gaps in the saltmarsh habitat in the Dornoch Firth means part of Royal Dornoch’s Struie Course is vulnerable to flooding and even being lost to the power of the waves.

However, a project starting next month will transplant hundreds of greenhouse-grown native saltmarsh plants to help restore the natural defences.

Saltmarshes provide important habitat for a wide range of wildlife and protect coastal land from flooding and erosion. However, shoreline degradation and climate change are increasingly placing these grassland areas under threat.

Dr Clare Maynard, a research scientist at St Andrews University and Chair of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology (MASTS) Coastal Forum, is the project manager of Green Shores, a £155,000 scheme promoting the restoration of saltmarshes that has been ongoing on the Eden Estuary and has grown to include the Tay and the Dornoch Firths.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club is providing £10,000 a year for three years towards the project to help safeguard the 10th fairway on its Struie Course, which has been under attack from the sea.

The club, along with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the St Andrews Links Trust, the Ministry of Defence, Fife Council, the Scottish Rural Development Programme’s LEADER, MASTS and local community volunteers also support the project.

Dornoch Academy pupils will help greenkeepers, researchers and community volunteers with the transplant effort and will grow saltmarsh plants in school greenhouses for planting next year.

Dr Maynard said: “Saltmarshes absorb wave energy. When we studied the Eden Estuary it was clear that land behind saltmarshes was in pretty good shape and far less likely to be eroded or flooded, whereas areas where there were no saltmarshes were clearly getting pounded by the waves and were at risk.”

She said gaps of tens of metres in the saltmarsh habitat close to the Struie Course are causing concern: “Coastal erosion is at its worst at the gap in the protective saltmarsh. There are flooding issues in the winter as well as year-round energy from waves degrading the edge of the course.

“There is a growing awareness in Scotland, and around the world, that saltmarshes and sand dunes play an important and underappreciated role in protecting our coastline. Projects like this, which work with nature to protect our important assets, will be critical in turning the tide on the increased erosion we expect with climate change. Our efforts here on the Dornoch Firth will help ensure the course remains playable for decades to come.”

She said a spadeful of healthy saltmarsh plants will provide at least 100 transplants. These will be cultivated and then taken to the Dornoch Firth. Individual plugs, around 5cm in diameter, will be planted into the sand, supported by bio-rolls filled with coir, a natural and sustainable waste product from the husk of coconut shells, to act as wave breaks.

“The use of bio-rolls is an innovation of the Green Shores project. They have been used on shorelines with mixed success in the US and in the south of England, but only on riverbanks in Scotland. So, this is a first, and Royal Dornoch Golf Club is instrumental in pioneering the strategy in the eastern Highlands.”

The plants will spread out as they grow, filling in the gaps and joining the natural saltmarshes. The plants also trap sediments, raising the surface elevation, which allows the marsh to keep pace with sea level rise. The project will be repeated next year, using plants grown in the school greenhouse, and possibly 2020 if funding allows.

Dr Maynard added: “We will fill in the gaps with saltmarsh transplants to provide a soft engineering solution to this problem in a way that is good for everyone as it helps the environment and there is no need for an expensive sea wall.

“It’s a long-term process, not a quick fix, and while we cannot stop the sea, we can buy time for the golf course simply by having more naturally robust habitats in front of the course.

“Approaches like these, which work with nature, are being recognised as important complementary or alternative approaches to traditional engineering solutions. Given the increasing erosion we’ve seen on Scotland’s coast in recent decades, we need as many options as possible to ensure our highly valued coastal businesses are resilient to climate change.”

Neil Hampton, Royal Dornoch’s General Manager, said: “in 2010 we noticed a gap appearing in the saltmarsh affecting the 10th hole. If nothing was done we could have lost the whole fairway.

“We tried a number of methods to break the power of the waves, but when we learned of Dr Maynard’s work we decided it was the best way to tackle this potentially serious issue.

“It’s a natural solution and it involves the local schools and other local people, so it fits well with our commitment to the environment and the community.”

Dr Alistair Rennie, SNH Geodiversity Manager and Project Manager for Dynamic Coast, Scotland’s National Coastal Change Assessment, said: “Climate change is already affecting our shores. Scotland’s soft coast has seen an increase in the extent and rate of erosion since the 1970s.

“The Dynamic Coast project shows our natural defences protect £13 billon of coastal assets, more than twice the value protected by traditional coastal engineering. This is why working with nature is an essential approach to ensure our coastal communities, businesses, infrastructure and natural habitats remain resilient with climate change.”

Prof David Paterson, Executive Director of MASTS, added: “We are fully supportive of this environmentally-sound coastal habitat management and the work of Dr Maynard is a great example of new approaches supported by the MASTS Coastal Forum.”


The public will have a chance to help shape plans for major developments at Stornoway Harbour that will bring significant benefits to the town.

Public exhibitions will be held as part of a continuing consultation process on ambitious proposals that include a deep water port and new marina as part of Stornoway Port Authority’s 20-year Master Plan.

The Port Authority’s annual meeting will also include a presentation on the projects and there will be opportunities to comment on each project at all three events.

Stornoway Harbour visualisation

Stornoway Harbour visualisation

Feedback from the exhibitions and public meeting will be considered before formal applications are made for planning permission, marine licences and a Harbour Revision Order which are needed before the projects can proceed.

Alex Macleod, the Authority’s Chief Executive, said: “These meetings are important parts of the whole process. They will give us the chance to present the proposals and get responses from the community.

“The planned developments will provide huge economic benefits for the whole island, and we want to move forward with the community fully informed about our plans, explaining why the developments are necessary and how they will bring new economic opportunities.

“The exhibitions and public meeting will update stakeholders on the progress of these proposals, but they are also a chance for us to listen so that we get this right.”

An exhibition on Tuesday 24 April, between 10am-6pm at Stornoway Town Hall will set out the proposals and the methods being used by the Port Authority to assess the environmental impact of the projects.

At a second exhibition, on Monday 4 June between 10am-6pm at the Town Hall, the Authority will explain how the proposals have evolved since the first consultation event and provide information about the environmental impact assessments.

 There will also be a presentation about the Newton Marina and deep water port projects, and an opportunity to make comments, at the Port Authority’s annual public meeting at 7pm on 23 May at An Lanntair on Kenneth Street, Stornoway.

The deep-water port proposal is crucial to accelerate local growth in the burgeoning cruise business, by providing improved facilities for larger ships that cannot currently berth alongside.

Stornoway welcomed 43 cruise ships in 2017, but attracts relatively few large vessels, as those over 156 metres in length are unable to berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small boat.

To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships up to 350 metres long. This would attract an additional 35-40 vessels a year and increase passenger visits towards the levels experienced in Orkney and Shetland, creating a significant number of business opportunities throughout the island as visitor numbers entering through the port continue to increase.

Plans include:

  • A new deep water berth with a 400m long quay, with associated storage and working areas
  • A berth and linkspan for a freight ferry
  • Development land for a range of uses, including industrial, storage and decommissioning activities
  • A new link road along the foreshore to Arnish fabrication yard

It will also provide additional capacity for a freight ferry, resilience to the current ferry service, create berthing for larger cargo ships, reducing transport costs and supporting future renewable energy projects. Additional phases of deep water quays, hard standings and development areas, will be built over a 20-year period as the commercial environment dictates.

The masterplan also identified a shortage of yacht berths and amenities constraining potential growth in marine tourism. A recent study estimated the value of sailing tourism in Scotland could increase by 18 per cent by 2023.

The Port Authority has a popular marina that was expanded in 2014 and can take 80 yachts. However, the berths filled up soon after they were installed and there is now a shortage of space during the summer and winter seasons.

To maintain its share of the growing yachting sector, Stornoway needs more berths and other facilities. It is estimated that an additional 100 berths could be filled in the short to medium term.

Plans for Newton Marina include:

  • A new marina with pontoons for leisure craft, a marina services building, public slipway and a boat lift structure
  • Hardstanding for boat storage
  • A new marine engineering workshop to allow boat building and repairs under cover
  • Creation of land for future development, including business/industrial, leisure and food and drink


A new drive to attract golfers to some ‘hidden gem’ 9-hole courses has teed off in the Highlands.

The High 9s Tour takes in some of the most scenic courses in the north of Scotland – from the dramatic coastal setting of Durness Golf Club on the north cost of Sutherland, to the Scots pine woods of Abernethy Golf Club in the heart of Speyside.

Pictured with the High 9s bag tag are (left to right) Willie MacKay, Scottish Golf; John Gunn, Lybster Golf Club; June Sanderson, Isle of Skye Golf Club; Neil Hampton, Chair, Golf Highland; Phil Masheter, Aigas Golf Course; John Swinden, Abernethy Golf Club (kneeling); Allan Perris, Gairloch Golf Club; Barney Mackie, Portmahomack (Tarbat) Golf Club; Mike Turner, Ullapool Golf Club (back); Susan Swinden, Abernethy Golf Club; Lucy Mackay, Durness Golf Club; and Albert Tonge, Bonar Bridge & Ardgay Golf Club

The Tour officially opened this week and golfers are being encouraged to play all nine courses to earn a place on the Wall of Fame or play for prizes by taking the Tour Challenge and returning scores from three courses.

The High 9s clubs are all members of Golf Highland, a destination marketing collaboration involving clubs in the region. Other members are clubs in Lybster and Bonar Bridge & Ardgay, in Sutherland; Portmahomack, Ullapool and Gairloch in Ross-shire; Aigas, in Inverness-shire; and Isle of Skye.

Neil Hampton, general manager at Royal Dornoch Golf Club, who was Golf Highland’s first development manager in 1999 and now the chair, has played a leading role in the revival of this important golf networking group and sees this initiative as a positive development for the smaller clubs.

He said: “The people of the Highlands are all about collaboration and growing what we have in our area by working together, no matter what sphere we operate in, and Golf Highland is a perfect example of this in action.

“Clubs like Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Nairn, which are ranked among the top courses in the world, are working closely with those who have energetic volunteers trying to ensure their survival, but all with a common aim, to make the Highlands of Scotland a first choice golfing destination for all categories of golfer – serious, recreational, experienced, beginner, young or old.

“The High 9s concept is a fantastic idea, which will satisfy all of these groups, and has become a reality due to the hard work of those clubs. I am delighted that this has come to fruition and when you see the geographical spread of the courses, those who take part will not only have a great golfing experience but will get to drive through some of the most amazing scenery the world has to offer.

“I very much look forward to trying the challenges for myself and seeing if I can get on the Wall of Fame!

To join the Tour and have a chance of appearing on the Wall of Fame, visit one of the participating clubs, buy a £5 High 9s Tour bag tag and register your entry form.

To compete in the Tour Challenge, send in scores from three different clubs (except your home course) in the same season April – October. Ensure your card is signed and send a photo of proof to golfhigh9s@gmail.com

Prizes will be given for the combined Stableford 9 hole scores for Gents, Ladies, junior boys and girls under 18, using half your full handicap.

Prizes are also up for grabs for the best combined strokeplay scores over three courses (except your home course).

Willie MacKay, Development Officer for Scottish Golf, agrees that the Tour could be a great new asset for golf in the Highlands.

“It’s this kind of local initiative, driven by the clubs themselves, that will improve visitor numbers. Nine-hole golf is becoming increasingly more popular for tourists who want a taste of golf during their journey around the Highlands.”

And June Sanderson, from Isle of Skye Golf Club, who will be looking after the project’s administration, said: “The High 9s Tour will be a great way for visitors to find us and discover some of the hidden secrets of Scottish golf.”


The developers of a world class golf course have welcomed significant progress on their plans with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) removing its objections to the project.

SEPA confirmed in a letter to Highland Council (23rd March) that previous areas of concern had been removed after constructive dialogue with the team behind the Coul Links proposals.

Coul Links. Pic by Norman Strachan.

The Coul Links team had submitted additional information in support of its applications earlier this year. In its letter to the Highland Council, SEPA wrote how ‘this new information enables us to remove our objection to the planning applications’. 
Todd Warnock, developer of Coul Links, said: “We are very pleased with the thorough and professional dialogue we have had with SEPA over the last almost three years. 
“We have taken the time to work constructively together to ensure the environmental integrity of the site and at the same time to advance one of the largest private investments in the history of Sutherland. We are now also looking forward to the response letter which is expected from Scottish Natural Heritage.”
All of the appropriate documents relating to the application are available on the Highland Council website now that their issues with uploading them have been resolved.
The team has submitted plans for a world class golf course near Embo in Sutherland, which will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stimulate the economy and enhance the environment locally.
The plans, which are supported by an overwhelming proportion of the local population, will generate 250 new jobs and more than £60 million gross value-added during its first decade of operation.
SEPA submitted its original comments on the plans in December, in what the developers called a ‘thoughtful and constructive response’.
The Coul Links project is proposed near Embo by Todd Warnock, proprietor of the Links House Hotel and Carnegie Courthouse retail centre in Dornoch, and world-famous course developer Mike Keiser. 
Mike Keiser, developer of Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links and Sand Valley golf resorts, is perhaps the golf industry’s most respected developer and environmentalist. His links courses are all extraordinary examples of remote communities working in partnership to achieved substantial economic benefit from his courses. He will work with architects Coore Crenshaw, one of the most respected golf architects in the world.
The project is backed by Embo Trust, on behalf of the entire Embo community, which has expressed unequivocal support for the project and will receive an income stream from their direct investment. 
An overwhelming number of local people, businesses, public sector agencies, golf clubs and tourism specialists have confirmed their support for Coul Links.
The developers filed a planning application on Sept 22, 2017 after an exhaustive 2-year process of economic and environmental assessment. Six public consultation events were held locally and the overwhelming majority of those who attended remain firmly behind the project.  
Since 1988, invasive species have grown by 333 per cent at the site, covering more than five hectares. As a commitment to environmental integrity, the developers have agreed, in close conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage, to implement a fully funded Site Management Plan.
Specifically, the developers will commit funds annually to maintain and enhance the entire site thus preserving it in perpetuity at no cost to the taxpayer.



An online security shield used to protect some of the largest global enterprises from cyber attacks is now being deployed by a leading telecoms provider to safeguard its business and domestic customers.

Duncan Kennedy, HighNet’s network architect

HighNet is amongst the first telecoms companies in the UK to use the service which has helped eliminate attacks against major government agencies worldwide, as well as leading financial services, pharmaceutical, educational and internet organisations.

The action is needed to combat a growing number of cyber attacks aimed at gaining entry to customers’ computer systems and potentially disrupting or even shutting down business.

Criminal activity, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against businesses, doubled during 2017 and included a high-profile breach affecting the National Lottery.

A UK Government survey also showed that just under half (46 per cent) of all UK businesses identified at least one cyber attack during the previous 12 months, rising to two-thirds among medium-sized firms (66 per cent) and large companies (68 per cent).

HighNet, which manages more than 20,000 business lines across the UK, has installed the new security software as part of a £6.5 million investment in its network.

The system spots when an attack is starting and stops it entering the network, then sends an email alert to HighNet’s engineers.

DDoS attacks involve a network of compromised computers, known as a ‘botnet’, which flood an IP address leaving legitimate traffic unable to get through.

Cybercriminals can use DDoS attacks to cripple a firm’s services, or possibly extort money from a target. They can also be deployed to distract security and IT staff while malware, or malicious software, is installed or data is stolen.

An attack can involve thousands of devices, with everyday objects connected to the internet including webcams, security cameras, TVs and even fridges, vulnerable to being used in a criminal attack if they are not secure.

Duncan Kennedy, HighNet’s network architect, said: “There are a number of attack strategies that are employed, but the most basic and common one is to swamp the target with traffic so that it’s too busy to deal with legitimate business requests.

“It’s like having a shop in the High Street and thousands of people come and jam up the doorway, meaning your customers can’t get in.

“But our ethos is to ensure security, peace of mind and plain sailing for our customers’ telecoms. That’s why we are using world-class, highly sophisticated anti-DDoS protection which stops an attack getting through.

“This acts like a security shield and stops the bad traffic coming in. It’s a very important investment in our network infrastructure.”

HighNet’s new system blocked an attack every couple of days for the first two weeks in January and during the month stopped one of the biggest cyber attacks so far on one of its customers.

“This was a sophisticated, multivector attack targeting a customer in Aberdeen, and was of sufficient bandwidth to have had a serious impact on their business”, said Duncan. “Most attacks we see are much smaller than this example, but in recent weeks we’ve started to see, and block, more of these high bandwidth attacks.”

Conventional firewalls offer little or no defence against DDoS attacks, he said: “Because the first D in DDoS stands for distributed, you can’t easily install a firewall rule or something similar that will stop this kind of attack.

“Firewalls are designed to block bad traffic from single sources, whereas a DDoS attack is the combined effect of thousands of devices swamping a target, usually with what is otherwise legitimate traffic.”

Duncan advised people to be more security conscious in the age of the ‘Internet of Things’ when many devices are connected online.

“In terms of stopping your own kit being used, or being taken over to participate in cyber attacks, you should be aware of some basic network security points. Don’t just plug in TVs or other appliances to the internet without changing the default password, for example.”

Other tips for securing your devices

  • Make sure all your passwords are secure
  • Make sure the software on devices is up to date.
  • Only connect devices if you plan to use that functionality (eg don’t connect a TV to the network if it’s just going to show broadcasted channels)
  • If you don’t need it, turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on your router and IoT devices.

HighNet has also been successful in tackling a number of voicemail fraud attempts on customers.

Voicemail, or dial-through, fraud is a growing problem in the UK, costing businesses £953 million annually – making it bigger than credit card fraud. It can cost companies upwards of £1,000 per day and potentially thousands of pounds during a holiday period.

It occurs when criminals target phone systems from the outside and use them to make a high volume of calls, typically to premium rate or overseas numbers.

Hackers can obtain access to a business’s call-forwarding system via its voicemail if security passwords have either not been set or are not strong enough. They can then call an extension which has call-forwarding enabled, directing the call to the premium-rate number, with the revenue for those calls being received by the fraudsters.

HighNet has revealed that in the past year its security systems have intercepted eight fraud cases – involving numbers from Morocco, Cuba, Liberia, Togo, Tunisia, Albania and Bosnia – potentially worth around £100,000 in total.

Instead, the total cost was limited to £2,327, with some of the victims escaping without any financial loss due to the level of protection they have.