BEIS launches multimillion-pound security investment package

Government is making available more than £50m to support a range of new cyber security initiatives and collaborations, including the latest phase of its Digital Security by Design programme

A new partnership with Arm to develop secure chipsets, a major project to tackle online harms and misinformation, and a number of other collaborations around secure technology are to be funded in a major package of cyber security investments announced by the government today.

Using cash drawn down from multiple sources, including the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the Strategic Priorities Fund, the new round of investments will help to protect businesses and the general public from cyber attacks and other online threats, such as fake news and cyber bullying, said the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is overseeing the scheme.

“Cyber attacks can have a particularly nasty impact on businesses, from costing them thousands of pounds in essential revenue to reputational harm,” said business secretary Andrea Leadsom.

“Cyber criminals operate in the shadows, with the severity, scale and complexity of breaches constantly evolving. It is critical that we are ahead of the game and developing new technologies and methods to confront future threats, supporting our businesses and giving them peace of mind to deliver their products and services safely. 

“Investing in our world-leading researchers and businesses to develop better defence systems makes good business and security sense.”

With the average cost of a cyber attack on a business rapidly increasing, the government said that innovative, secure hardware – such as that which Arm will now be working on in the next phase of the Digital Security by Design challenge – will help augment basic security hygiene practices.

Arm said the project had the potential to prevent hackers from remotely taking control of computer systems in the first place, as well as targeting attacks and breaches, with the result that more businesses offering online services should be better protected. The project is backed by £36m of funding.

“Achieving truly robust security for a world of a trillion connected devices requires a radical shift in how technology companies approach cyber threats,” said Arm chief architect and fellow, Richard Grisenthwaite. “Research into new ways of building inherently more cyber-resilient chip platforms is critical.

“Our first step is to create prototype hardware, the Morello Board, as a real-world test platform for prototype architecture developed by Arm that uses the University of Cambridge’s Cheri [Capability Hardware Enhanced Risc Instructions] protection model. It will enable industry and academic partners to assess the security benefits of foundational new technologies in which we are making significant investments.”

Elsewhere, a new £18m project will look to explore solutions to some of the issues identified in the government’s Online Harms whitepaper, which was published in April. It will set out to understand what businesses and individuals need to do to reduce the harm they are exposed to through online platforms, such as fraud, phishing emails, malware and ransomware, as well as misinformation.

“It is crucial that our citizens and businesses are able to access digitally secure products and services that are not vulnerable to cyber threats,” said UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) chief executive Mark Walport.

“The investments announced today will help to ensure the UK has a robust system in place to withstand cyber threats and create a safer future online, increasing trust and productivity in our economy.”

Prosperity Partnerships

Six further collaborations, or “Prosperity Partnerships”, will also be supported, with collaborators coming together to work on building security by design into wireless networking technology, among other things.

This collaboration will bring together GCHQ, Roke Manor Research, Toshiba Research Europe and the University of Bristol to work on more resilient wireless networks. The collaborators will set out to identify how the radio frequency (RF) interfaces used by wireless networks can be attacked and develop techniques to detect such attacks and mitigate them.

Secure Wireless Agile Networks (Swan) academic lead Mark Beach, of the University of Bristol, said: “The wireless networks that underpin so much of modern life are increasingly vulnerable to both cyber attacks and other induced failures.

“This partnership aims to develop secure wireless networks that are resilient to these threats, protecting individuals, businesses and society at large through Secure by Design methodologies.

“Swan and the wider Prosperity Partnership initiatives bring together a cadre of engineers from industry, government and academia with invaluable commercial insights and in-depth technical skills capable of delivering holistic solutions for a productive, healthy, resilient and connected nation.”

Other Prosperity Partnership projects include development work on more affordable electric vehicles, artificial intelligence as a means to support clinicians, and quantum computing for drug development.

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