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Unlocking cyber innovation

Elliot Rose | Information age | 17 october 2017 

This article first appeared in Information Age.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has just marked its first anniversary, publishing its 2017 Annual Review. It’s already notched up some significant achievements including:

  • launching the Active Cyber Defence programme, which has prevented thousands of attacks.
  • responding to more than 590 significant cyber incidents.
  • leading the UK’s response to the worldwide WannaCry ransomware attack.
  • helping to nurture the next generation of cyber experts.

An ongoing challenge for the UK is how to be innovative when it comes to cyber security. The NCSC’s achievements, like developing the UK’s cyber skills for current and future generations, are vital first steps to creating the right setting for this innovation.

Similarly, the newly announced London Cyber Innovation Centre will give UK firms access to the newest cybersecurity technologies. And it will give early-stage start-ups support to develop, raise growth capital and reach maturity.

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Industry, academia and the public sector all welcome the centre. And it can help public and private organisations reach new levels of digital trust and resilience. But I think it has another role to play – bringing business and cyber security innovators closer together to drive innovation and grow the UK’s cyber security industry.

Having worked with many organisations across sectors on their cyber security strategy, I think there are two factors holding cyber innovation back:

Many large businesses don’t know what they’re dealing with

They can’t always tell if their problems are even cyber-related at all. And if they can, they’re not sure which ones their IT providers or in-house teams can solve, and which ones need innovation from elsewhere.

Recently, we’ve worked with one of the UK’s critical national infrastructure organisations. Solving their cyber issue was as much about managing the insider threat – i.e. the cyber risk from people within an organisation, whether accidental or malicious – in an innovative way as it was a technical challenge. Even when the challenges are clear, there’s no ready mechanism to help the private sector access the free-wheeling innovation in the minds of the idea generators.

Many cyber security innovators don’t understand business problems

Their vantage point in small start-ups or research organisations doesn’t give them a clear view of industry’s problems. Often there’s a mis-match between the solutions that are created versus the problems that really need solving.

Or sometimes, the cyber innovators are just not very good at engaging in a meaningful way with industry and distrust large organisations who they think will exploit their IP and sell them short.

All this means that too few great ideas make it to start-up, and too few start-ups make it to commercial success. The London Cyber Innovation Centre has a critical role to play in forging a closer relationship between large corporates and individual innovators, and everyone in between.

It can do it by applying the UK’s latest innovative thinking to real-world business problems. That will help to unlock innovation, so the UK’s cyber industry can grow and combat the increasingly complex challenge of cyber security.

Elliot Rose is a digital trust and cyber security expert at PA Consulting Group

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