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Government recommits to UK’s cyber future in Digital Strategy

New strategy leans heavily on cyber security but stops short of announcing any initiatives that have not already been launched or heavily trailed

The government today reinforced multiple previously-made commitments to the UK’s burgeoning cyber security sector, using its new Digital Strategy policy paper as an opportunity to re-announce a £114m funding increase for the National Cyber Programme – first discussed in the Autumn 2021 Spending Review – as well as reaffirming funding for security skills training, infrastructure, research and development (R&D), innovation, defence and intelligence.

Other elements relating to cyber security strategy were previously elaborated upon at the launch of the new £2.6bn National Cyber Strategy at the end of 2021, and are predicated on a so-called “whole of society” approach to cyber.

“Beyond the national level, we must equally consider the security of individuals and businesses within the digital environment,” wrote the policy paper’s authors. “In line with our overarching ambition to keep our digital systems, platforms, devices and infrastructure secure, we are investing more than £2.6bn over three years.

“This will ensure that the UK continues to be a leading responsible and democratic cyber power, able to protect and support our interests in and through cyber space to achieve our national goals.”

Reflecting this, the Digital Strategy policy paper devotes considerable time to online safety and disinformation, noting the ongoing passage of the Online Safety Bill (introduced to parliament in May 2022), the work of the Counter Disinformation Unit at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and new legislation to counter nation-state threats – chiefly Chinese and Russian in origin – against the UK’s interests.

It also details – although again this is all already known information – its security education and skills outreach in UK schools, including the Cyber Explorers programme, which aims to reach 3,000 students, its £12m CyberFirst scheme to encourage young people to pursue careers in the sector. Beyond schools, it also notes the work being undertaken through the UK Cyber Security Council to simplify pathways into security careers and raise quality through professional standards and certifications for cyber pros.

The government also talked up its work – ongoing for several years at this point – to secure the growing numbers of smart devices in people’s homes, and ensure such products have a standardised level of security, as well as its recent publication of a call for views on application security and privacy interventions, which is proposing a voluntary code of practice for app store operators and app developers.

The government went on to provide further details of an ongoing programme, spearheaded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), to help local authorities bolster their cyber resilience. As of the end of the most recent financial year in April 2022, this programme had supported more than 120 councils across the UK, and disbursed grant funding totalling £13.9m.

The full policy paper can be read here.

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