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Nine graduates pass through NCSC Cyber Accelerator

150 150 Stuart O'Brien

A group of tech start-ups have become the latest to graduate from a Government initiative to advance the next generation of cyber security systems.

The nine-month GCHQ Cyber Accelerator (now renamed the NCSC Cyber Accelerator), delivered in partnership with Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future, saw nine companies develop cutting-edge products and services to help enhance the UK’s cyber defences.

Part of the UK Government’s £1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy and the Cheltenham Innovation Centre, the Accelerator is a collaboration between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), GCHQ, National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and Wayra UK and aims to drive innovation in the cyber security sector.

Firms selected to take part in the second round had access to personnel and technical expertise at the NCSC and GCHQ, as well as the Telefónica global business network. They also received £25,000 in funding, high-quality mentoring and office space.

Innovations developed include a cloud service solution to connect Internet of Things devices with end-to-end authenticated, encrypted security and a service to solve the problem of age verification and parental consent for young adults and children in online transactions.

Companies who took part were Cybershield, Secure Code Warrior, RazorSecure, Elliptic, Intruder, Trust Elevate, Warden, Ioetec and ExactTrak.

NCSC, DCMS and Wayra UK will soon be calling for cyber start-ups to join the third round of the programme – now renamed to the NCSC Cyber Accelerator – to help address some of cyber space’s key challenges.

Innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups can now register interest in participating in the nine-month programme, which will include ten innovative, agile companies in 2018/19.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, said: “With so much of our daily lives connected to the internet, it is vital the UK leads the way on cyber security to fulfil our ambition of making Britain the safest place to in the world to be online.

“The NCSC Cyber Accelerator programme is a great example of government, industry and tech start-ups coming together to benefit from the advice of world-class experts and tackle cyber crime.”

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Skills and Growth, said: “On behalf of the NCSC, I would like to congratulate the second cohort on their completion of the Accelerator.

“It has been exciting to collaborate with such innovative start-ups, tackling such a broad range of problems.

“I’m really pleased that Wayra UK will continue to be our partner. I look forward to working with them and meeting more pioneering entrepreneurs as we launch the next cohort.”

Gary Stewart, Director of Wayra UK, said: “We are really pleased to be continuing our partnership with GCHQ. It’s one of our most strategic and successful partnerships.

Indeed, our first two cohorts have raised more than £20 million in funding, have created 19 British jobs and have won 15 trials and contracts worth over £3 million. And this has been just in the last 18 months.”

NCSC warns of growing cyber security threat to UK business

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Criminals are launching more online attacks on UK businesses than ever before, according to a new report published by the the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

The NCSC, which is part of GCHQ, released the report to coincide with its flagship CYBERUK 2018 summit, which is taking place this week in Manchester.

The Cyber Threat to UK Business‘ was jointly authored by the NCSC and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in collaboration with industry partners, and details some of the biggest cyber attacks from the last year and notes that risks to UK businesses continue to grow.

Emerging threats are also highlighted, such as theft from cloud storage and cryptojacking, in which computers are hijacked to create crypto currencies such as bitcoin.

The report acknowledges that a basic cyber security posture is no longer enough and most attacks will be defeated by organisations which prioritise cyber security and work closely with government and law enforcement.

Ciaran Martin, Chief Executive of the NCSC, said: “We are fortunate to be able to draw on the cyber crime fighting expertise of our law enforcement colleagues in the National Crime Agency.

“This joint report brings together the combined expertise of the NCA and the NCSC. The key to better cyber security is understanding the problem and taking practical steps to reduce risk.

“This report sets out to explain what terms like cryptojacking and ransomware really mean for businesses and citizens, and using case studies, shows what can happen when the right protections aren’t in place.”

The report also notes that firms are under increasing threat from ransomware, data breaches and supply chain weaknesses which it says can mean serious financial and reputational damage.

It sites real-life case studies from businesses damaged by cyber crime, including ransomware attacks that have affected companies ranging from multi-national firms to independent restaurants.

Furthermore, the report states that while law enforcement and government have successfully battled many cyber threats this year, under-reporting of cyber crime by businesses means crucial evidence and intelligence about cyber threats and offenders is being lost.

Donald Toon, director of the NCA’s Prosperity Command, said: “UK business faces a cyber threat which is growing in scale and complexity. Organisations which don’t take cyber security extremely seriously in the next year are risking serious financial and reputational consequences.

“By increasing collaboration between law enforcement, government and industry we will make sure the UK is a safe place to do business and hostile zone for cyber criminals.

“Full and early reporting of cyber crime to Action Fraud will be essential to our efforts.”

 

UK Government prioritises cyber skills

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The UK Government is “acutely aware” of the need for more skilled cyber security professionals working within the sector, and is embarking on a series of initiatives to help promote the profession.

Discussing the concern with members of UK technology industry body TechUK, Matt Parsons, head of cyber security skills at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said: “We are looking at a number of ways to retrain people who are interested in moving into the industry at pace and at scale.

“Using what we have learned, we are planning to scale up and look at how we can support the cyber security industry – and get more people in at a quicker rate.”

Initiatives include a two-year bursary pilot programme for candidates taking a GCHQ accredited masters degree to return to become a cyber security professional. The Government is also running a 10-week training academy to provide training for candidates looking to pursue a career in cyber security, along with an apprenticeship scheme that has launched offering students work placements and on-the-job training.

“The National Cyber Security Strategy outlines a number of strategic outcomes, one of which is that the UK has a sustainable supply of home-grown cyber security professionals to meet the growing demands of an increasingly digital economy in both the public and private sectors – and in defence,” commented Parsons.

The Government also believes that the creation and development of professional body with cyber security  is “absolutely key” to the continuing development of the profession, with Parsons indicating that the Government is looking at ways to support it.

“And that is not about creating something new to replace what already exists, but rather about looking at the existing landscape and thinking about how all that work can be harnessed to be even more effective and help deliver the desired outcome,” said Parsons.

NCSC first year anniversary of protecting the UK

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A report published to mark the first year anniversary of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) protecting the UK from cyber threats has revealed that within 12 months the organisation received 1,131 incidents, with 590 classed as ‘significant’.

Part of GCHQ, the NCSC focuses on cyber security for the UK. The incidents listed within the report outlined the work undertaken by the organisation to help improve security of online transactions throughout the country, along with providing support for the UK Armed Forces.

“Our response has been to transform to stay ahead of them,” said Jeremy Flemming, director of GCHQ.

“The NCSC is a pivotal part of that transformation. It is a critical component not only of GCHQ, where it benefits from the data and expertise it has access to as part of the intelligence community, but of how the government as a whole works to keep the UK safe,” Flemming added.

In its first year, the NCSC has been credited for a 43% increase in the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP), leading the UK response to the WannaCry virus, hosting the three-day Cyber UK Conference in Liverpool and enrolling over 1,000 youngsters on the CyberFirst courses.

GCHQ: Keeping the UK safe from cyber-attacks “as important as fighting terrorism”

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The head of intelligence monitoring service GCHQ has said that keeping the UK safe from cyber-attacks is now as important as fighting terrorism – with increased funding from GCHQ being spent on making it a “cyber-organisation” as much as a counter-terrorism and intelligence organisation.

Jeremy Flemming became the GCHQ director in March 2017, from a career in MI5 that saw him rise to the rank of deputy director. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Flemming said there had been nearly 600 “significant” cyber-attacks this year alone, and that the UK’s adversaries were “quick to spot new ways of doing us harm”.

“If GCHQ is to continue to help keep the country safe as we prepare for our second century, then protecting the digital homeland – keeping our citizens safe and free online – must become and remain as much part of our mission as our global intelligence reach and our round-the-clock efforts against terrorism,” commented Flemming.

“We all derive great benefit from the ease and speed of connecting across the planet: access to knowledge, reduced costs of communication and commerce, and from the additional security provided by default encryption.

“It’s also true to say that hostile states, terrorists and criminals use the same features to undermine our national security, attack our interests and, increasingly, to commit crime.”

Fleming concluded: “All of this can feel deeply challenging for a GCHQ that by necessity has worked in the shadows. It remains the case that much of what we do must remain secret. But the success of the NCSC demonstrates that we are more effective, a better employer and more trusted if we are more transparent, more visible and take advantage of the internet to drive change.”