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UK cyber security boss Ciaran Martin to step down

NCSC chief Ciaran Martin will leave his post in the summer of 2020

Ciaran Martin, CEO of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), is to step down later in 2020 after nearly seven years in charge of the government’s cyber security efforts.

Having been appointed to the board of GCHQ as security head in 2013, Martin, who was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the New Year’s Honours List, was instrumental in the establishment of the NCSC as a unit within GCHQ following the 2015 General Election.

“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to set up the NCSC and lead its brilliant people. When we created the NCSC, we set out to achieve something truly special, and I hope and believe we are leaving UK cyber security in much better shape,” said Martin.

“Challenges around securing technology are only going to get ever more complex, so it’s right that after six and a half years that someone else takes this world-class organisation to the next level.”

A career civil servant and latterly a frequent fixture on Computer Weekly’s UKtech50 list of the most influential people in British IT, Martin helped position the NCSC at the forefront of major improvements to the UK’s security posture – Britain is considered a global leader in cyber as a result.

The NCSC now employs more than 1,000 and commands a budget in excess of £250m. It has dealt with well over 2,000 major cyber security incidents since it opened its doors in 2016, and has driven a more assertive cyber security policy on behalf of the government.

This has included providing evidence to enable Westminster to publicly attribute state-sponsored cyber attacks to Russia and other states, taking steps to improve the security of Britain’s critical national infrastructure in areas such as energy and communications, and pioneering an active cyber defence programme that has helped the government clamp down on malicious websites, including those that spoof legitimate public sector services such as HMRC.

It has also backed the government’s Cyber Essentials scheme, which provides security support for businesses, and taken a leading role in the Cyber Girls First programme, which has provided thousands of girls with cyber security education.

GCHQ will soon set out the processes for appointing a new chief executive in anticipation of a smooth handover during the summer of 2020. The post is a director general-level appointment within GCHQ, and reports directly to GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming.

Due to his position as a senior civil servant, Martin is subject to regulations that prevent him from disclosing his future plans for the time being, although he will be taking up a position as a visiting professor at King’s College London this autumn.

Read more about the NCSC

  • At the launch of its third annual review, NCSC head Ciaran Martin appealed for individuals and businesses to address the fundamentals of cyber security hygiene to help lighten the load.
  • As hundreds of thousands of students prepare for the new academic year, universities have been warned that they are at high risk of cyber attack.
  • The UK’s cyber security agency has called out Microsoft for seriously undermining global email security by failing to provide crucial reports from its email platforms.

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