UK faces hacking doom, but think of the money, security startups!
Every cloud breach has a silver lining, says minister
Infosec 2013 The UK government is hit by more than 33,000 pieces of malicious email a day, ranging from casual phishing to targeted espionage attacks.
Chloe Smith, minister for political and constitutional reform at the Cabinet Office, told delegates at the Infosecurity Europe conference on Wednesday that despite this onslaught cyber security represents an opportunity, as well as a threat, for UK plc.
"The UK has a history of being innovators in technology and in technical areas such as cryptography which is maintained to this day in our universities," Smith said.
"We know how to implement this as our ongoing strengths here underpin our cutting-edge position in areas such as online commerce and banking. Undeniably, there is massive growth potential for UK businesses and innovators to do very well in the cyber security sector."
There are around 2,380 UK companies in the cyber security sector, which equates to 21 per cent of all UK security companies. Information security firms have opened up 26,000 jobs, with collective sales estimated at £3.8bn - bringing in revenues from exports of £800m.
"Cyber security global growth is forecast over the next four years to be over twice that of the security sector as a whole, as economic constraints bite in traditional defence and security markets," said Smith. "This is a growth sector and one which we should encourage and nurture."
To promote the security sector, the UK's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has joined up with IT trade group Intellect to launch the Cyber Growth Partnership as a way of promoting further growth in the UK's higher technology sector, and in particular helping start-ups and SMEs.
Smith went on to outline the threats the UK government itself faces, calling for collaboration between government agencies and private business in combating private and state-sponsored cyber-espionage, fraud and online disruption.
"On average over 33,000 malicious emails are blocked at the Gateway to the Government Secure Intranet every month," Smith said. "These are likely to contain - or link to - sophisticated malware, often sent by highly capable cyber criminals and state-sponsored groups. A far greater number of malicious emails and spam, but less sophisticated emails and spam are blocked each month."
Big as these numbers may seem, industry is by far the biggest victim of cyber threats, according to Smith. The UK government is launching security guidance and a voucher scheme for small businesses through the Technology Strategy Board. The voucher provides companies with a grant to work with outside consultants. The cyber security element of this scheme will fund 100 companies with Innovation Vouchers of up to £5,000 each.
The scheme is part of broader plans to make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do online business and to make the UK more resilient to cyber-attacks.
"£650 million of investment over four years has been put in place in one of the tightest fiscal environments government has ever seen. This underlines the importance we place on cyber security," Smith said.
Christopher Boyd, senior threat researcher at ThreatTrack Security, welcomed the voucher scheme as well as its support of university research programmes in cyber-security. "The government's commitment to investing in cyber security research and skills in the UK is commendable," Boyd said.
"Organisations including central government, large and small businesses and academia can only benefit from better insight into cyber security challenges, and the same market intelligence will only help breed the next generation of security countermeasures."
Boyd continued: "The innovation voucher scheme is a prime example of this, helping small businesses to engage with UK security solution providers to develop bespoke and innovative solutions to emerging security problems." ®