A new government-backed scheme has been launched to help businesses keep their data safe from hackers and demonstrate a commitment to cybersecurity.

Cyber Essentials offers two levels of certification, so businesses can learn all about the most common attacks and ways of protecting themselves from becoming the next victims. The courses have been designed to protect firms against the typical attacks they’re most likely to face, rather than any large-scale, state-sponsored hacks – more the burglar trying your front door to see if it has been left unlocked than an Oceans 11-style heist.

The basic course, Cyber Essentials, is a self-guided module showing businesses the cybersecurity basics and ways of preventing attacks. There’s also Cyber Essentials Plus, where a hands-on, technical verification is carried out to stress test a business and ensure all the measures have been taken on and rolled out effectively.

The benefits of becoming qualified are manifold, to not just protect data assets and a company’s reputation, but also to help bring new customers and clients on board. It’s easy for prospective clients to see which firms have taken the course, with an online certificate search showing up all companies that have qualified within the past 12 months.

Certification could even offer companies a way into working with the government, as some contracts (those involving personal data or providing technical products or services) will require Cyber Essentials as a condition of employment.

The courses have also been touted as a way to provide reassurances to staff members that the company is taking precautions to keep their jobs safe.

The Cyber Essentials certified self-assessment programme costs £300 + VAT and lasts for 12 months. The cost of Cyber Essentials Plus will depend on the size and complexity of the business in question. All programmes are open not just to UK-based businesses, but others all around the world that want to demonstrate their compliance to customers and governments here.