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NCSC for Startups programme seeks ransomware-busters

Innovative ideas for ransomware-busting technology are being sought by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and startup incubator Plexal

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), alongside startup hub Plexal, is seeking new ideas and technologies that can better protect small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the threat of ransomware attacks.

In its latest call for innovators to join its NCSC for Startups programme, the NCSC said it had handled the same number of ransomware incidents in the first four months of 2021 as it had done in the whole of 2020 – which itself saw a threefold increase on 2019.

In particular, the NCSC is keen to hear from startups that: think they can provide more accessible and low-cost forms of protection and mitigation; are working on secure backups or other technologies that can minimise the impact of a ransomware attack, should one occur; and have developed technology that addresses the risks posed by remote desktop protocol (RDP), in support of remote workers.

Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for cyber growth, said: “Ransomware presents the most serious cyber security threat to the UK and it is vital that organisations protect themselves. Our latest NCSC for Startups challenge provides a great opportunity for innovative companies to collaborate with us in the fight against ransomware and strengthen the UK’s defences.”

Plexal innovation director Saj Huq added: “Ransomware doesn’t just affect large, established companies. There is a growing risk to SMEs that make up the backbone of our economy and anyone who lives and works online are potential victims. 

“This is a unique and game-changing opportunity for startups to work on the biggest cyber threat around, alongside experts from the National Cyber Security Centre and industry who are working day in, day out to keep the UK safe – and I hope they respond to this call with a sense of urgency and mission.”

The call to arms comes in the wake of – and in support of – Westminster’s recently announced National Cyber Strategy launch, which made much of engendering a new “whole-of-society” approach to cyber security across the UK, promoting security skills and business across the country to respond better to evolving threats, such as ransomware.

Companies moving through the NCSC Startups ransomware programme – which has previously helped more than 40 new firms raise over £100m in cumulative external investment – can be at any stage of the startup lifecycle, from those just getting started on a minimum viable product through to already-successful scaleups, and those that see a chance to pivot their existing technology into cyber security. They will get to keep all intellectual property and equity created through the programme.

Successful applicants also gain access to support from the NCSC’s own staff, as well as Plexal’s innovation team and other perks associated with the organisation, such as access to business mentoring, and networking and investment opportunities.

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