Ensuring the UK has the security skills and knowledge it needs is a key objective of the national cyber security strategy, says Rhys Bowen, deputy director of cyber security at the Cabinet Office.
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But this is as much about building a strong cyber security economy as it is about defending UK cyberspace, he told civil servants at the Westminster Briefing Cyber Security Summit in London.
“The UK is very good at cyber security and we see a real economic opportunity for the country,” said Bowen.
“By building a workforce with cyber skills, the UK can ensure that its digital assets are protected as well as creating economic opportunities.”
Bowen highlighted the government’s efforts to identify 11 centres of excellence in the field of cyber security and support for three cyber security research institutes.
In the closing keynote speech, outgoing GCHQ director Iain Lobban announced plans for the intelligence agency to share intellectual property with UK firms more regularly.
He said GCHQ had already contacted hundreds of companies, mostly SMEs, and ended up sponsoring a few dozen ‘seedcorn’ tasks to take an initial idea through to proof of concept.
The initiative aims to find ways for GCHQ’s cyber security work to better support the UK’s cyber security firms, especially in the development of new business ventures.
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GCHQ plans to share IP on a broad range of technologies through joint ventures, unclassified expert seminars and by making things available through open source, officials said.
The government is also working to promote cyber security in schools and universities, said Bowen
“We are working with academics to ensure that security is a component of every information communication technology course,” he said.
“The aim is to inspire young people in the UK and show them that cyber security is an exciting career option.”
UK technology trade association TechUK also sees cyber security as an important sector for the UK economy and supports the government’s cyber security export targets.
The UK’s cyber security exports are currently worth about £805m a year, but the government hopes to increase this to £2bn by 2016.
“This will help generate new jobs,” said Ruth Davis, head of programme cyber, justice and emergency services at TechUK.
The trade association is supporting this drive by co-ordinating business and academic involvement in the Cyber Growth Partnership (CGP), a joint initiative with government.
Davis added: “The CGP helps UK businesses to identify opportunities, enter overseas markets and evaluate the risks of potential contracts.
“The cyber threat is real, but so are the business opportunities.”