The future of cybersecurity

Posted on 11/04/2017

Global risks are also a UK business opportunity.

Global security risks are also a UK business opportunity.

By Robin Kennedy

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need cybersecurity. But a recent news report highlighting the ten biggest incidents of 2016 illustrates that from the Philippine elections to Tesco Bank, cyber attacks are increasing in number, scale and complexity. In the real world, people are fallible, systems are vulnerable and cybersecurity is a growing issue virtually everywhere.

Today, we publish a new report from KTN, Cybersecurity: challenges and opportunities for the UK, which identifies ten themes for cybersecurity that will grow over the next 3-5 years. Each represents an opportunity for UK industry to seek or develop tools and techniques to counter the risk of cyber attack.

The report came from a number of industry workshops that we convened at the end of last year, with participants from a wide range of sectors.

With the world becoming more dependent on digital technologies, there’s the risk that terrorists, organised criminals or hostile nation states will be able to get through our existing defences, to steal, leak sensitive data, or otherwise wreak havoc (the capacity to influence democracy is currently perceived as the cyber topic of the day).

Recent big business attacks on Sony, TalkTalk and Yahoo show that successful invasions can damage reputation and share price.

Moreover, the development of new technologies, such as the Internet of Things or distributed ledger technologies, results in whole new classes of cybersecurity threat emerging. And this isn’t just about technology – the human factor is important. Humans (known as ‘wetware’ in the cyber-security community) are a significant weak point when it comes to the protection of systems and data.

But there are also opportunities here. Cybersecurity is a growing global market, which is expected to grow from about $75billion in 2015 to more than $170billion by 2020. The main areas of threat will also be areas of opportunity for our home-grown cybersecurity sector.

And this is a sector where the UK has real strengths. We’re well positioned in having the National Cyber Security Centre, which is a part of GCHQ and our national security services. The accumulated expertise of the government communications headquarters is a massive asset for us, and many businesses have been developed around it as well as generating numerous spin-outs. Then there’s the fact that the UK is highly trusted around the world as a place to do business, with highly secure commercial data facilities, such as AQL in Leeds, offering world-class protection.

Overall, we have a very vibrant cybersecurity sector: the challenge from the government perspective is in encouraging individual businesses to achieve global scale. There are many small businesses in the cybersecurity space. We want them to grow and to be able to export.

Much of the innovation in cybersecurity may come from improved awareness and training, rather than just technological solutions. In other words, this sector isn’t only of interest if you’re working in hard technology – it can also be something you get involved with if you’re working in the fields of behavioural science or user experience.

With an acknowledgement of both the huge economic potential for cybersecurity over the next five years and the massive role of inter-disciplinary research and development, Innovate UK has launched a number of collaborative funding opportunities around cybersecurity, including its current Emerging and Enabling Technologies competition.

Over the next few weeks, my KTN colleagues and I will be writing in more depth, giving you our perspectives on each of the ten themes in the report. I do hope that you’ll find these useful.

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