Government signals intention to ‘design out’ cyber threats for business community

Business Secretary Greg Clark has unveiled a raft of measures that will see the UK become a world leader in the race to eradicate some of the most damaging cyber security threats facing businesses. Businesses and consumers alike will benefit from increased security and protections built into digital devices and online services with the help of up to £70 million in Government investment through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund backed by further investment from industry.

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

With cyber threats constantly evolving, the best defence in the future is seen as developing innovative solutions that can work independently and protect against threats even during attacks. The Government wants to ensure that every UK organisation is as cyber secure and resilient as possible.

A further £30 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 through 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.

Step-change for online security

Greg Clark: Business and Energy Secretary

Greg Clark: Business and Energy Secretary

Greg Clark said: “This could be a real step-change in computer and online security, better protecting businesses, services and consumers from cyber attacks and resulting in benefits for consumers and the economy. With businesses having to invest more and more in tackling complex cyber attacks, ‘designing in’ security measures into the hardware’s fabric will not only protect our businesses and consumers, but ultimately cut the growing cyber security costs to businesses. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action. We’re building on the UK’s heritage and strengths in computing and cyber security to ensure that we capitalise on our position and become a leader in the growing markets and technologies of tomorrow.”

Nearly all UK businesses are reliant on digital technology and online services, yet more than 40% have experienced a cyber security 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 organisation 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). As more and more systems are connected, whether in the home or within businesses, there’s a need for security that’s secure by design.

Digital Minister Margot James stated: “We want the UK to be a safer place in which to live and work online. We’re moving the burden away from consumers to manufacturers so that strong cyber security is 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.”

Improving security from the ground up

Dr Ian Levy, the National Cyber Security Centre’s technical director, added: “The National Cyber Security Centre is committed to improving security from the ground up. We’ve ve been working closely with Government to promote the adoption of technology and practices to protect the UK. We hope this additional investment will drive fundamental changes to products that we use every day. This is vital work, because improving hardware can eradicate a wide range of vulnerabilities that cause significant harm.”

The Government aims for R&D investment to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027, which would represent the biggest increase in public investment in R&D in UK history.

The modern Industrial Strategy sets out Grand Challenges designed to place the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data is one them. Through this Grand Challenge, the UK will be at the forefront of the AI and data revolution, helping sectors to boost their productivity through new technologies, helping people to develop the skills they need and leading the world in the safe and ethical use of data.

Response from the cyber sector

Graeme Stewart, director of the public sector (UK and Ireland) at Fortinet, has responded in detail to the Government’s announcement.

“More public sector support for security by design is a welcome step. Our hope for this research is that it will lead to more hardware manufacturers incorporating security by design into their devices. It’s putting in place simple steps which will force better consumer practices. This will be more effective than a public education campaign. The companies already supporting don’t receive the recognition they deserve.”

Stewart continued: “Smart products are the subject of much security concern at the moment, but we don’t need to overcomplicate the conversation. Internet of Things hygiene should be treated like good cyber security practices elsewhere. You need to be able to appropriately secure the device based on the risks that device poses. For example, if it can access personally identifiable information, better security protocols need to be standard. Context is key.”

In conclusion, Stewart informed Risk Xtra: “Finally, better security isn’t always about ensuring that devices run the right software. For example, certain medical devices cannot receive software updates because they require Windows XP to function. In cases like this, you need to design security policies which work around the situation through air gapping, network restrictions and more.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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