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Industrial IoT focus of next NCSC startup challenge

The NCSC for Startups programme is looking for innovative ideas to encrypt and secure the industrial internet of things

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), alongside innovation hub partner Plexal, are scouting emerging cyber talent to form the next cohort of startups to be inducted into the NCSC for Startups programme, this time with a focus on securing the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and developing resilient products.

The next cycle of the NCSC for Startups programme, which has been running for six years and now comprises a community of more than 60 organisations, will begin in January 2023 and will equip founders with the specialised knowledge needed to develop, adapt and pilot their technologies and support the first steps in their businesses growth with support from various partners.

Saj Huq, chief commercial officer and head of innovation at Plexal, says: “During my attendance at the inaugural meeting of the National Cyber Advisory Board, it was highlighted that there were 2.7 million cyber-related frauds in the 12 months to March 2022. The ever-changing threat landscape underlines the importance of our work with the NCSC in enabling innovation to make the UK more resilient and secure to the risks that society faces now and into the future.

“Public-private collaboration is key to closing this gap – between the cyber risks and opportunities that we face – and we’re incredibly proud and excited to call on the next wave of ambitious innovators to support us in tackling these challenges together. The UK has a wealth of cyber startups driving economic growth and strengthening our national security and we look forward to working alongside our next intake of talented leaders.”  

The NCSC and Plexal said that, according to recent estimates, around 98% of traffic traversing the IoT is currently encrypted, with the risk magnified for IoT devices being used in industrial settings, which can include critical national infrastructure (CNI) operations.

The first of the two challenge areas will explore the production of aftermarket solutions that add encryption to deployed IIoT devices in the field, with a particular focus on making it simple and cost-effective for IIoT device manufacturers to add encryption to their devices’ communications.

The second challenge, which supports the second pillar of the UK’s National Cyber Strategy – building a resilient and prosperous digital UK – will look at how to strengthen the security and resilience of safety-critical applications that safeguard the country’s most sensitive systems.

It will explore questions such as how novel architectures and technologies might protect against advanced threats, and what new ideas are driving innovation, diversity and cost-efficiency in resilient hardware.

Scouting will also continue against the existing challenge set with the addition of the two new challenge areas.

Read more about IoT security

  • IoT, while influential and beneficial, introduces several enterprise security issues. Key risks of IoT include network vulnerabilities and outdated software and firmware.
  • IoT brings benefits to business, government and consumers. But those features shouldn't come at the cost of security or less privacy for its users.

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