On Friday 12 December, Francis Maude – Minister for the Cabinet Office – hosted an event at the Institute for Chartered Accountants of England and Wales in central London marking the third anniversary of the UK’s Cyber Security Strategy. On the day, Maude unveiled several additional measures being put forward by the Government to assist in safeguarding the online space for all citizens.
The event was designed specifically to address leaders in industry, academia and Government and highlight ways in which the UK is building skills to boost its growing cyber security sector. It follows hot on the heels of a report to Parliament on progress and forward plans scripted to make the UK one of the safest places in which to do business online.
Increasing the number of people with the right cyber skills is vital for both Government and industry as the UK collectively faces the reality of cyber threats. The Government’s work to improve the UK’s cyber security defences is led by the Cabinet Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and, of course, GCHQ.
Francis Maude (pictured) announced that the Government has committed to:
*Grants for colleges and universities in Birmingham, Liverpool, Lancashire and Newcastle that will improve cyber security education and learning (the grants being realised in partnership with companies including Barclays Bank and Hut Group, the online retailer)
*New cyber camps and mentoring schemes run in conjunction with the Cyber Security Challenge UK and the Cyber Growth Partnership to help computing graduates gain practical experience and begin a career in cyber security
*Cryptoy: a new and innovative Android app designed by students on placements at GCHQ to highlight exciting developments in cipher and code-breaking for a new generation of cyber specialists
*A virtual hub operated in conjunction with the Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers (CREST) that’s ultimately designed to inspire students towards cyber security careers and provide advice and information on job opportunities
*New cyber security careers resources for students within the Graduate Prospects careers website
*An updated guide for business on the cyber security skills initiatives that will help develop the skills of their own staff members and nurture future talent
Adopting a strategic approach
“As part of this Government’s long-term economic plan,” stated Francis Maude, “we want to ensure that Britain is one of the safest places in which to do business online. Over the past three years, we’ve taken a strategic approach to improving cyber security, working with others to deliver schools programmes. We’ve also certified six Masters degrees and established two centres for doctoral training alongside 11 Academic Centres of Excellence.”
The MP continued: “Given the work of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park in days gone by, the UK has a proud heritage in cryptography and computer science. Today, no less than 40,000 people work in our cyber industry and we have 14 cyber security ‘clusters’ across the country, but we do want to develop greater skills and encourage more people to pursue a career in this growth area.”
Maude concluded: “We do hope the Cryptoy app will spark a new interest among individuals to pursue a career in cyber security. Our new cyber camps, mentors and Higher Education Academy grants will help more people when it comes to embarking on a cyber security career.”
UK’s cyber security talent pool
Stephanie Daman, CEO of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, responded to the MP’s speech by stating: “This announcement highlights the Government’s ongoing commitment to improving the size and quality of the UK’s cyber security talent pool. It also demonstrates a real understanding of the fact that addressing our cyber security skills gap requires a sustained programme of targeted support for innovative programmes and initiatives that are inspiring the next generation of cyber professionals.”
Daman added: “Government’s support now spans a huge range of opportunities, from innovative tools such as Cryptoy to a national mentoring programme and a raft of new cyber camps designed to inspire budding cyber defenders. As a country, we’re now creating extraordinary opportunities for young people who demonstrate the aptitude and appetite to forge successful and rewarding careers in cyber security. I’m encouraged that, with the continued backing of Government, UK businesses and academia we’re doing exactly what’s required to future-proof the cyber security capabilities of the UK.”
Mark Hughes, president of BT Security, explained: “Making certain that security’s right and protecting businesses, Government and the general public against cyber attacks is vitally important. Data breaches and attacks are an everyday threat to business and, with the UK cyber security industry now worth £6 billion a year, it’s critical that we build a pipeline of talented people to fill the gap in skills we’re currently experiencing.”
Hughes went on to say: “Recruiting into the industry is notoriously difficult. On that basis, it’s critical that we engage in strategic activity that helps find the right people, prepares them for jobs in the industry, trains them and makes them ready to take on key roles in the cyber security profession.”
In conclusion, Hughes outlined: “It’s for this reason that BT is proud to be supporting the cyber camps and mentoring schemes announced by Francis Maude. It’s not enough that we concentrate on developing the workforce of today. If we’re to build and maintain resilient infrastructure in the UK then we simply must develop the workforce of the future. BT is fully committed to helping create that workforce.”
Professor Stephanie Marshall, CEO of the Higher Education Academy, also voiced opinion on the matter. “If the UK is to be equipped to respond to cyber threats,” opined Marshall, “we need to strengthen the pipeline of cyber talent and help prepare students for entry-level security career opportunities. The Higher Education Academy is pleased to be able to offer support to higher education providers when it comes to developing innovative projects involving strong partnership with businesses that will improve cyber security teaching and learning across the discipline of computing and the sectors beyond.”
Marshall also explained: “All four projects launched at this event have the potential to do this, thereby helping to improve the skills of graduates, address the shortage of cyber security skills and future-proof the country’s IT sector, in turn making it more resilient to possible cyber attacks.”