Cyber Fortress Britain: UK to spend £1.9bn on infosec defences

1 Nov 201610 Shares

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The UK Chancellor pointed out that cybersecurity now underpins people’s daily lives in the UK, from domestic devices in homes to air traffic control and power grids. Image: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

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In what is one of the biggest investments of its kind, the UK is to invest £1.9bn in cybersecurity defences.

In a plan to make the UK one of the safest places in the world to do business, the strategy is in response to allegations that bad actors in the employ of Russia and China were behind recent high profile cyberattacks.

The £1.9bn investment will be separate to the £265m earmarked to bolster cybersecurity vulnerabilities at the Ministry of Defence.

‘No longer the stuff of spy thrillers and action movies, cyberattacks are a reality and they are happening now’
– BEN GUMMER

“Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cybersecurity thanks to our investment of over £860m in the last Parliament, but we must now keep up with the scale and pace of the threats we face,” said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond.

“Our new strategy, underpinned by £1.9bn of support over five years and excellent partnerships with industry and academia, will allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked.”

Society is vulnerable to cyberattack

Hammond pointed out that cybersecurity now underpins people’s daily lives in the UK, from domestic devices in homes to air traffic control and power grids.

As a result, society is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks and their implications.

“No longer the stuff of spy thrillers and action movies, cyberattacks are a reality and they are happening now,” said Ben Gummer, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General.

“Our adversaries are varied – organised criminal groups, ‘hacktivists’, untrained teenagers and foreign states.

“The first duty of the government is to keep the nation safe. Any modern state cannot remain secure and prosperous without securing itself in cyberspace. That is why we are taking the decisive action needed to protect our country, our economy and our citizens.”

As well as partnering with industry giants like Microsoft to protect national infrastructure in sectors such as energy and transport, the UK government is also moving to tackle scammers using phishing attacks to dupe citizens.

This year alone, the UK will be recruiting over 50 specialist cybercrime investigators and technical specialists who will work within the National Cyber Crime Unit.

The Chancellor announced a new Cyber Security Research Institute – a virtual collection of UK universities which will look to improve the security of smartphones, tablets and laptops through research that could one day make passwords obsolete.

The UK government is also creating the UK’s first Cyber Innovation Centre in Cheltenham, and will next year launch a Cyber Innovation Fund to support cyber start-ups and academics.

“The mobile-first, cloud-first world holds enormous potential for organisations and individuals to generate new and exciting growth opportunities,” said Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK.

“However, there is a corresponding risk that as people increase their technology usage, they also increase their exposure to cybersecurity threats. It is critical for all organisations to strengthen their core security hygiene, as well as creating a pervasive security culture through education and awareness.

“All participants in the security ecosystem also need to work together to ensure everyone can trust the technology they use. The Chancellor’s announcement is the kind of initiative that the UK needs to protect British citizens from the growing threats we face. We welcome the government’s focus on tackling this significant issue which affects business and individuals alike,” Rose added.

Border control at Heathrow Airport. Image: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com