ICT Telecoms and Technology

Boosting cyber security

agendaNi reviews the raft of announcements made recently by the UK Government aimed at increasing the cyber security of businesses and ensuring the UK remains the safest place to do business online. 

Last summer, the Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy,

Ed Vaizey MP, announced a series of schemes aimed at boosting small and medium size enterprises’ (SMEs) cyber security, encouraging more people to choose cyber security as a career path and supporting cyber security innovation.

A new voucher scheme designed specifically to protect SMEs from cyber-attacks was announced as part of this package of initiatives designed to increase the resilience of UK businesses to cyber-attacks. The package will also include a new online learning and careers hub to help ensure the UK has the cyber skills talent pool to protect both the public and private sectors from the very real and ever increasing threat of cyber-attacks.

Voucher scheme

The voucher scheme, which will cost the government around £1 million, will offer micro, small and medium sized businesses up to £5,000 for specialist advice to boost their cyber security and protect new business ideas and intellectual property. As well as helping protect businesses from cyber-attack, the vouchers will enable firms to access services from the UK cyber security industry. This new scheme will also help businesses to adopt ‘Cyber Essentials’ the government’s flagship scheme to protect businesses online.

It will help many businesses take the necessary first step towards securing their digital data. The 2015 information security breaches survey carried out by PwC on behalf of the UK Government found that in 2015, 74 per cent of small businesses had a security breach. This was an increase of 60 per cent on 2014’s figure. The research found that the majority of UK businesses, regardless of size, expect that breaches will continue to increase in the next year.

The financial impact of security breaches continues to soar. The report found that for small businesses the cost of such a breach which includes, business disruption, lost sales, recovery of assets and fines and compensation ranges from £75,200 to £310,800. Last year the figures for a similar breach ranged from £65,000 to £115,000. The research found that in the past year, both large and small organisations appear to be subject to greater targeting by outsiders, with malicious software impacting nearly three-fifths of small organisations. There was a marked increase in small organisations suffering malicious attacks in 2015 with attacks up 36 per cent on 2014. The amount of denial of service attacks have dropped across the board, continuing the trend since 2013. Many may assume this is good news, however, the report warns that this decrease is simply because outsiders are using more sophisticated methods to affect organisations.

Speaking about the scheme and the need to ensure that the UK remains the safest place to do business online, Minister Vaizey said that the new voucher scheme will offer increased protection for small businesses, and the new online hub will help ensure that Britain has the skilled workforce in place to manage the increased pressures of the digital age. 

Careers hub 

According to the government, the UK cyber security industry is strong and growing. At present, it is estimated to be worth £17.6 billion and employs over 40,000 people, but more skilled people are needed to help protect the nation as the UK goes digital and adopts new technologies. To tackle this skills shortage, the government has teamed up with the security testing industry body Crest to develop the newly launched ‘Inspired Careers’ online skills and careers hub.

The hub features careers information and advice, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, academic and professional training courses, work experience and senior level vacancies. It will be a powerful tool to promote the cyber security profession and encourage the next generation of cyber specialists to help protect the UK.

The careers hub will be overseen by Innovate UK, an executive non-departmental public body that operates as the UK’s innovation agency.

Speaking about the announcement of both the hub and the voucher scheme, the UK’s director of technology and innovation, Kevin Baughan spoke of the critical importance of these schemes at a time when the economy is becoming increasingly underpinned by digital infrastructure. 

“The schemes announced today will give cyber-confidence for businesses and consumers and will help our digital economy to flourish,” he said. The UK now has the opportunity to become a world leader in cyber security, creating the jobs of tomorrow and driving productivity and growth.”

“The UK has a proud heritage in cryptography and computer science, and is at the forefront of today’s battle against the cyber criminals, but there is still more to do if we are to stay ahead” 

Minister Vaizey was similarly enthusiastic about the hub decrying that it is an important development that supports the government’s commitment to encouraging more young people to develop cyber security skills. He also highlighted the importance of increasing the cyber skills talent pool to both the public and private sector in the immediate future in the face of increasing cyber threats.

“The UK has a proud heritage in cryptography and computer science, and is at the forefront of today’s battle against the cyber criminals, but there is still more to do if we are to stay ahead,” he warned.

Crest president Ian Glover said the main aim of the inspired careers hub is to encourage talented people into the industry, either straight from education or from other industries, as well as to help nurture and harness existing skills.

“Crest is proud to be involved with the initiative because it will help to address the problem of attracting and retaining the brightest young people into careers that have traditionally had an image problem, and demonstrates that there is a strong career path once in the industry,” he said.

The government has also recently announced the Cyber Security Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) fund worth £500,000. The fund, which is expected to support around 12 projects, will provide grants to encourage partnerships between academic institutions and cyber security companies to support innovation and to help the businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity.

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