Speaking at the third anniversary of the launch of the UK Cyber Security Strategy at Chartered Accountants’ Hall, Cabinet minister Francis Maude said, “We should recognise that cyber is a business of the future in its own right. Cyber security already employs some 40,000 people and is worth £6bn to the British economy.”
Figures recently published by UK Trade & Investment show that the UK’s cyber security exports have now passed the £1bn mark. This is an increase of 22% over the previous year and puts the UK on track to reach the government target of £2bn worth of exports by 2016.
But what is holding back growth, said fellow speakers Alex van Someren, managing partner of early stage funds at Amadeus Capital, and Ian Whiting, CEO of cyber security SME Titania, is a severe shortage of skills.
Whiting said his company had problems in any case because much of its technology was so new and innovative that it was impossible to bring employees on board with the requisite readymade knowledge.
And even if there were skilled people out there in the market, because of the high demand, smaller businesses did not stand a chance when pitted against large corporations that could so easily outprice them.
The government is supporting businesses in this area, Maude explained, both to increase the resilience of the economy but also to make sure they are in a position to take advantage of the world-wide market for cyber security products and services.
“The one thing that is essential to both these objectives is skills," he said.
As a result, the government is giving new grant funding for colleges in Newcastle, Birmingham, Lancashire and Liverpool to develop and demonstrate new resources to improve cyber security education and learning.
It is also setting up a mentoring scheme under which employees from the cyber security profession will act as mentors for recent graduates and students interested in a cyber security career.
Recent graduates will also be able to attend a series of cyber camps run by the Cyber Security Challenge. These will offer participants hands-on experience of cyber security and the opportunity to gain an industry-recognised foundation qualification.
In addition, GCHQ has launched Cryptoy, a new app which can be downloaded free from Googleplay. This showcases famous ciphers and codes from history from Julius Caesar’s time to the enigma codes of the Second World War.
The app is designed for 14-year-olds upwards and is a teaching aid to help develop their interest in code-making and breaking and associated disciplines such as mathematics and programming.
Boosting the availability of skills in the UK is key to the government’s long-term economic plan to make it one of the safest places in the world to do business.
“[Cyber security] is an area of strength for Britain,” Maude added. “We already punch above our weight in cyberspace. But we have the potential to be so much more.
“So let’s carry on working together. Because by seizing the opportunity for jobs and growth, innovation and advancement, Britain can genuinely be a 21st century cyber super power.”