The age of cyber: The private and public sectors must join forces


Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates – which has a TLA Cyber group and recently launched the TLA CyberSecurity steering group – on why the private and public sector have to work together when it comes to cybersecurity.

As we move further into the digital age, technology is underpinning activity in all walks of life, and transforming the traditional economy. Growing hand in hand is the importance of cybersecurity – often mentioned, but frequently overlooked.

We have welcomed technological advancements with open arms for all of the benefits that they bring and the limitless possibilities on offer. However, a far greater focus must now be placed on addressing the issues that have accompanied progress. We have created an entirely new space to operate within, and it’s vital we provide adequate security for all those within it.

The private sector has acted promptly and embraced the challenge. The UK is now a world-leading provider of cyber services and a dominant force in this field. London is becoming the home to businesses at the forefront of the global cybersecurity agenda.

Darktrace, a cybersecurity startup, achieved a near £600m valuation, less than five years since its inception – now tipped to become the UK’s next tech unicorn. CybSafe and Digital Shadows have also been making waves in the industry, highlighting the growing strength of the vertical and Britain’s leading position.

The pressing need to increase digital security has become ever more salient following a number of high-profile cyber attacks on organisations like the NHS, firms like Talk Talk and Deloitte and even the prestigious academic institution of Oxford University.

For many this was the wake-up call they needed. Large companies such as BT and PwC have since expanded their own cybersecurity branches, and companies in the field have witnessed impressive growth.

The community of UK startups and scaleups have equally worked to address fundamental concerns over the state of Britain’s cybersecurity. Hacker House and CyNation are great examples of innovative and ambitious businesses that are representative of the UK’s thriving hub – leading the charge and safeguarding organisations.

It has fast become a requirement, not an option, to have cybersecurity systems in place, yet this is an arms race that requires constant advance.

When a private company suffers a data breach it can expose them as unprepared for the digital age, in need of a system revamp and have dire commercial implications. When it is our education and public healthcare services at risk, the consequences on the line can be even more severe.

Institutions throughout the public sector carry sensitive data on the vast majority of the population. In order to protect the whole of society, it is imperative that the private and public sectors come together for improved safety and security, now more than ever.

Last week saw a positive step in the right direction, with the opening of the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA) by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock at Plexal within Here East. The new £13.5m government backed facility will act to bring together a cohort of the brightest and best innovators, and generate industry-led cyber innovation.

This is following in the footsteps of London’s business venture CyLon, Europe’s first cybersecurity accelerator. These types of initiatives will both boost the growth of UK start-ups in the cyber space, and help to cement Britain’s position as a preeminent global tech hub.

While combing forces to develop technology is gradually being recognised as the path forwards, implementation across the public sector remains an issue.

Traditionally, public institutions have been slow embracing new technology – large scale systematic changes bring with them a significant level of responsibility, and new operating methods must be tested and proven.

Yet, we now live in an age of change, and these institutions are fast moving onto digital platforms to offer services. As the NHS data breaches have shown, there is little time left to elaborate. The fear of damages from implementing vulnerable services that are not sufficiently secured is top of public concern.

Ultimately, there is little choice. The public sector must learn to embrace cybersecurity technology that is at the forefront of advancements, and now. The government has already shown very promising signs by backing the types of startups who will help to future-proof both the public and private sector – but more can be done.

Tech firms, big and small, are fast developing technology that it will fit the specific needs of government organisations and institutions that are increasingly processing vast amounts of sensitive data.

What we need now, is greater integration and collaboration across the board. Only then can the UK successfully prepare both the public sector and businesses for the digital age.