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UK government launches information assurance unit for defence

The Military Systems Information Assurance is aimed at developing alternatives to cryptology

The UK Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has created a new unit focused the identification, development and acceleration of technical solutions for information assurance.

The Military Systems Information Assurance (MSIA) is DASA’s new innovation focus area (IFA), and is part of broader efforts to enhance the UK’s cyber security capabilities and ensure the security of the national critical national infrastructure (CNI) and defence.

MSIA is an element of the Cyber Defence Enhancement through Life Project, and is funded as part of the UK government’s Integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. The IFA will aim to develop alternatives to cryptology, which is the traditional solution for information assurance or novel uses of existing cryptographic techniques.

Alongside the announcement of the focus area, DASA launched a competition that aims to gather proposals for alternative technologies and approaches that may not use cryptography or new uses of existing cryptographic techniques.

Examples of proposals that will be considered by the MSIA include new authentication methods, as well as ways to secure information in cloud environments and key management systems, as well as ways to provide assured information flow in conditions of low bandwidth and intermittent communications.

In terms of funding, the budget for MSIA will be split by technical readiness level. Less mature proposals considered emerging innovations should bid for funding up to £150,000 to provide a proof of concept within a six-month contract. More mature proposals should bid for a budget of up to £350,000 to provide a concept within a 12-month contract. The closing date for applications is 5 January 2022. A second cycle will run from 5 January 2022 to 2 March 2022.

The announcement of DASA’s new innovation focus area follows the launch of another IFA in August 2021, aimed at seeking out and developing technologies that will reduce Ministry of Defence (MoD) exposure to cyber attacks on its systems and platforms.

Still on efforts to secure digital assets, the MoD concluded it’s first-ever bug bounty challenge with security platform HackerOne in August, building on its commitment to develop a culture of collaboration around cyber security.

In March, the UK government published its Integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, in which it highlighted the need for greater capacity and resilience to deal with cyber threats, especially against CNI.

Earlier in 2021, it emerged that the MoD recorded an 18% rise in personal data loss incidents in the 12 months to 31 March 2020, with 546 incidents during the period.

The document contained in the MoD’s annual report and analysed by the Parliament Street think tank noted that 454 of these incidents related to unauthorised disclosure of data, 49 to the loss of electronic equipment, devices or documents from within government premises, 19 to the loss of equipment, devices or documents from outside government premises, and one to the insecure disposal of paper documents.

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