The government has announced that it will invest £8 million in developing security skills at universities to help battle against cybercrime.
A joint approach lead by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will see cooperation between the a number of government department and security bodies such as GCHQ as part of the National Cyber Security Programme.
The investment will be granted over seven years, providing post-graduate training in a range of cyber security related subjects, beginning in October 2013. Students will embark on a four year doctoral course.
Cabinet minister Francis Maude said that it is vital that the UK stays at the forefront of cyber security in order to shore up defences from an increasing security threat.
“Academia has a vital role to play in fostering our future cyber security talent, and we have therefore committed significant investment to deliver the first two Centres of Doctoral Training in Cyber Security,” Maude said in a statement. “We believe these centres will make an important contribution to further enhancing our world-class cyber security academic and research community here in the UK.”
While the move is welcomed by security experts, one warned that the government needs to take a cautious approach in the fight against cyber crime and attacks from rogue states.
Earlier this week, MPs urged intelligence agencies to engage in cyber attacks on enemy states in a report published by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).
Ross Brewer, managing director and vice president at LogRhythm, told TechEye that investment in vital cyber defences is a positive step, but care should be taken over decisions that could lead to further attacks against the country.
“The challenge for the government is that they are at the heart of the current activity,” Brewer said. “What they are trying to do from a university standpoint is they are recognising that the threat is increasingly becoming more intense, and more sophisticated.”
“It is not going to slow down, it is going to worse over time and there is a lack of skill to fight the good fight,” he said.
On the other side, Brewer pointed out that being too “proactive” in the cyber crime battle could result in a backlash and make the situation even more dangerous
“The government is a difficult position because they know what all the other governments are doing,” Brewer said, “and the question is what do you do in order to respond to alien states infiltrating your commercial and government and critical national infrastructure?”
“Do you go for a preemptive strike and take them out? That’s where you start to get into a pretty sticky area because if you make that move there is a countermove,” he said. “This proactive approach isn’t without its problems and isn’t without its risks.”
Brewer advocates a focus on a “defensive stance” in order to increase visibility and “get a handle on what is actually happening to us before we go taking others out”.