UK Invests to Become World Leader in Cybersecurity

The UK is aiming to become a world leader in the race to eradicate some of the most damaging cybersecurity threats facing businesses and better protect consumers. This is with the help of up to £70 million in government investment through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and backed by further investment from industry.

This investment will support research into the design and development of hardware so that they will be more secure and resilient from the outset. This aims to ‘design out’ many forms of cyber threats by ‘designing in’ security and protection technology/solutions into hardware and chip designs, ultimately helping to eradicate a significant proportion of the current cyber risks for businesses and services in future connected smart products.

The up to £70 million Digital Security by Design challenge will be delivered by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, subject to business case approval and match funding from industry.

A further £30.6 million of government investment will aim to ensure smart systems are safe and secure. Smart internet connected devices can include anything from operating a central heating thermostat via a smart phone, to pressing a button to unlock the front door. There are expected to be more than 420 million such devices in use across the UK within the next three years.

The £30.6 million Ensuring the Security of Digital Technology at the Periphery program will be delivered by UK Research and Innovation through the Strategic Priorities Fund. The program aims to ensure that Internet of Things systems are safe and secure, particularly as more critical applications emerge meaning there is increased vulnerability to broader, more sophisticated cyber threats. Effective solutions need to combine cyber and physical safety and security with human behavior, influence new regulatory response and validate and demonstrate novel approaches.

The UK government’s Business Secretary Greg Clark said that with businesses having to invest increasingly in tackling ever more complex cyber attacks, ‘designing in’ security measures into the hardware’s fabric will not only protect businesses and consumers but ultimately cut growing cybersecurity costs.

Nearly all UK businesses are reliant on digital technology and online services, yet more than 40% have experienced a cybersecurity breach or attack in the last 12 months. Hackable home Wi-Fi routers can be used by attackers in botnets to attack major services and businesses. Moreover, consumers are often the worst affected by mass information leaks than the organization that held their data. Businesses are having to spend increasing amounts on cyber security, up to 20-40% of their IT spend in some cases. And as more and more systems are connected, whether in the home or businesses, there is a need for security that is secure by design.

The government’s Digital Minister Margot James said that by moving the burden away from consumers to manufacturers, strong cybersecurity will be built into the design of products. “This funding will help us work with industry to do just that, improving the strength and resilience of hardware to better protect consumers from cyber attacks.”

The British government aims for R&D investment to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027– the biggest increase in public investment in R&D in UK history.

And on January 28, the Digital Minister announced four new projects across England to encourage more women, BAME, and neurodiverse candidates into a career in cybersecurity.

They will each jointly benefit from a total investment of at least £500,000 as part of the next round of the Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (CSIIF). CSIIF was launched in February 2018 and is open to organizations such as training providers and charities, who can demonstrate their initiatives are not designed to fill internal vacancies, but rather service a range of employers.

The aim of the Fund is to boost not only the total number, but the diversity of those working in the UK’s cybersecurity industry. It will help organizations develop and sustain projects that identify, train and place untapped talent from a range of backgrounds into cyber security roles quickly.

James said the UK’s cybersecurity industry is thriving but to support this growing success it needs a skilled and diverse workforce to match. “These latest projects show that whatever your background, ethnicity or sex, there are opportunities to join the cybersecurity profession. We want to demonstrate that you can have a dynamic and exciting career in a sector that sits at the heart of our economy, and is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

The projects receiving funding are:

  • Crucial Academy: Diversity in Cyber Security

This initiative looks to retrain veterans in cybersecurity, in particular focusing on women, neurodiverse candidates and BAME individuals.

  • QA: Cyber Software Academy for Women

This project will train and place a cohort of women into cyber development job roles within industry.

  • BluescreenIT: HACKED

This initiative will scale up an already existing program which identifies, trains, and places individuals, including neurodiverse candidates, those with special needs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds into a cybersecurity career. The project aims to build a network of UK community Security Operations hubs across the UK, which will engage and service the local community and businesses with cost-effective cyber security services.

  • Hacker House Ltd: Hands on Hacking, Training and Employer Portal

This online project will develop a portal allowing for an increased number of people to be trained and then engage with employers.

Kylie Bull has 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. She is an editor and contributor for Jane's by IHS Markit, a columnist for security and counter-terror publications, and a former managing editor for Homeland Security Today.

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