The threat landscape is rapidly evolving, posing a huge challenge to businesses in how to stay resilient in the wake of an ever-growing list of high-profile cyber-attack victims. Although daunting, this pace of change is pushing countries, and their businesses, into strengthening their cyber-capabilities.
Through this, there's a huge opportunity to foster home-grown cyber-talent, which has the potential to both strengthen a nation's capabilities while offering a chance to capitalise on exporting these technologies and services. It's this tactic that the UK government has committed to with the announcement of its Cyber Security Export Strategy.
I was one of the panel of “industry advisors” that provided input to help form the strategy, which aims to support British SMEs and cyber-security companies to find and secure opportunities to export their products and services globally.
The Department for International Trade has decided to focus, and rightly so, on markets where Britain has existing strong relationships which can be influenced, including the US, Gulfs States, Japan and into South East Asia via Singapore.
Room for growth
The strategy reaffirms the Government's goals to sponsor cyber-security from a national security perspective, but also to capitalise on the global brand that is “Great Britain”. In order implement this, the UK government is looking to adopt the “Israeli model”.
Israel accounted for the second-largest number of cyber-security deals globally, behind the US and, crucially, ahead of the UK. Coined the ‘Start-up Nation', Israel's current set up continues to create a constant stream of talented cyber-security operatives. The reasons behind its success is clear to see as the Government excels in offering two fundamentals to its businesses: investment and support.
The Israeli government has measures in place whereby citizens drafted into the national service are trained in cyber-skills and encouraged to become entrepreneurs, developing new solutions. Vast angel funding networks are available to citizens, where successful Israeli cyber-entrepreneurs go on to mentor and financially back young start-ups.
Though the ambition is to implement Israeli model, it's fair to say we're not quite there – yet.
Currently, UK SMEs have many hurdles to jump in order to grow. With a plethora of government bodies, all saying the same message as each other, it's tough for them to know who exactly to talk to. Coupled with the fact there are numerous funding groups, all of which are competing, which place huge pressures on prospects to produce ROI quickly, it's incredibly challenging for an SME. In an ideal world, a consolidated source of government funding should be made more readily accessible.
We should also not forget that we cannot rely solely on the government for funding. While we see many worthy angel investors, venture capital and private equity firms doing their bit; we miss the quantity of angel and scale of investors and lack the significant “national pride” influence that drives the success of the Israeli model.
More ‘mission' than strategy
The Government's Cyber Security Export Strategy should be viewed more as a great objective and ambitious plan that ultimately aims to promote and sponsor British cyber talent.
The strategy is already being implemented through the use of UK cyber ‘ambassadors' – currently placed in countries that the UK has existing relationships with, including Washington, Dubai and Singapore, with plans to recruit for further countries – all of which are flying the flag for the UK's capabilities.
Though the strength of the Great Britain brand will help leverage relationships with foreign countries, we need to ensure we're holding up our end of the bargain too, making it easier for UK SMEs to conduct business.
To do so, there needs to be an alignment of the vast number of Government departments, creating a sole body for SMEs to talk to. Secondly, the importance of consolidating funding networks under a unified body is vital, providing businesses support and room to grow with reduced pressure placed on seeking quick wins.
Contributed by Simon Church, general manager and executive vice president, Europe, Optiv.
*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media UK or Haymarket Media.