UK launches cyber crime research institute

The UK government has spent £3.8 million on launching a research institute, which it claims is aimed at shoring up defences against cybercrime.

The Research Institute in the Science of Cyber Security aims to improve the understanding behind cyber security threats, with a number of organisations, including GCHQ, working alongside universities.  

The aim is to bring together leading cyber security academics from a range of fields including mathematics and computer science, as well as drawing in industry experts and international researchers to create a greater pool of knowledge for fighting cyber crime in its many forms. Universities chosen to take part in the Institute include University College London, Imperial College, Royal Holloway and Newcastle University.

“Britain has one of the largest online economies in the world and a growing cyber security sector, and we need to ensure this success continues,” David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said, commenting on the launch.

“This new Research Institute will draw on the leading expertise in our universities from both technological and behavioural disciplines to address key challenges,” he said. “It will help businesses, government and individuals to better protect themselves from cyber threats so they can make the most of the opportunities the internet presents”.

The government has been keen to highlight the increasing threat level from cyber attacks, both to the private and public sector, and has already earmarked £8 million to spend on developing security skills at the university level.  

This figure is itself dwarfed by estimated costs of cybercrime in the UK, which generally runs into the billions of pounds for the economy. Some business groups are all too aware, they say, of the danger posed.

The government will claim it is increasing the United Kingdom’s defences against a wide range of threats, while simultaneously presenting an opportunity to grow the economy by leading the defence against cyber crime, a lucrative and growing business. Of course, the word defence has had many definitions over the years.

Francis Maude, Minister for Cyber Security, highlighted the financial benefits of a strong cyber security sector supported by leading edge research:

“The UK is one of the most secure places in the world to do business – already eight percent of our GDP is generated from the cyber world and that trend is set to grow,” Maude said. “But we are not complacent. Through the National Cyber Security Programme we are putting serious investment into the best UK expertise to lead thought in the science of cyber.”  

Tom Burton, Head of Cyber for Defence, BAE Systems Detica, labelled the launch of the research institute an “encouraging step” and said it would help boost the economy for future generations.

Burton said that building an economically strong cyber industry can help to create the diversified economy that the government is seeking, as well as creating a strengthened cyber security sector.

Ross Brewer, vice president and managing director for international markets at LogRhythm, told us he welcomed the launch of the research institute, which he believes shows that the government is finally catching up to the dangers it faces from online attacks.

“By investing in a programme to foster the collective effort of scientists, mathematicians and other experts, the government seems to finally understand what it takes to successfully address today’s cyber threat,” Brewer said, speaking with TechEye. “Reactive IT defences are undeniably outdated, what’s needed now are mechanisms to give context to data and to facilitate a deeper understanding of all network activity, as it happens.”

Brewer thinks that as data volumes increase at unprecedented rates, the potential for intellectual property or other critical information to get lost in the chaos, or exposed to attacks, grows exponentially.

“Generally speaking, the bigger the IT estate, the greater the need for the monitoring and analysis of all IT activity, and the marriage of academia with enterprise will go a long way to drive this home,” Brewer said.

“Hopefully this news will help organisations better protect the data that they are entrusted with.”