Government £50k grants for cybersec training and £1.8m for airport security

News by Jay Jay

The government is making £50,000 cyber-security training grants available, and separately it has invested £1.8 million in 'innovative' machine learning technologies that will help improve threat detection capabilities at airports.

In two separate new programmes, the government announced that it will award organisations up to £50,000 each to train and prepare staff for cyber-security career,  and in another initiative it is investing generously in airport security, and has also

However, the focus of the training grants programme will be to ensure that organisations train more women and neuro-diverse candidates in an effort to make the cyber security industry more inclusive in the long run.

"The Fund is open to organisations who can demonstrate their initiatives are not intended to fill internal vacancies, but rather service a range of employers, while designing initiatives aimed at helping adults move or transition quickly into a career in cyber-security, and to help drive progress against diversity and inclusion challenges," said the government in a document outlining the programme's details.

Despite the government's willingness to finance cyber-security training imparted by individual firms, obtaining the funds may not be a cakewalk for many. While applying for such funds, they will have to undertake that trainees will be ready for cyber-security roles within six months of funds being granted, establish that there is a clear requirement for government contribution towards a certain training model, and demonstrate that such a model would be self-sustainable once funding is stopped.

At the same time, such funding will not be offered to individuals, companies, including banks and insurance firms, seeking to enhance their own organisation's skills, government departments, and those who are bidding to retain or upskill their existing staff to fill skills shortages. In short, the government aims to ensure that the funds will not be misused by companies to meet their own narrow requirements but to enable individuals from diverse backgrounds to enter the cyber-security industry.

It remains to be seen how many organisations in the UK will be keen to apply for this fund, considering that the programme isn't meant to address their own skills shortage or upskilling needs but is geared towards ensuring the creation of a larger pool of cyber-security workers for organisations to choose from in the future. 

AI use in airport security

The government has also announced that it has invested £1.8 million in 'innovative' machine learning technologies to help improve threat detection capabilities at airports while also reducing the amount of time passengers will need to spend to get their bags screened. 

Through this investment, the government hopes to ensure that screening systems at airports will be able to better identify new threats and will also make screening processes less-time consuming and more passenger-friendly in the coming days. 

The government's funding has kick-started eight new innovative projects, including one that will use new imaging technology to scan shoes for explosive materials without requiring passengers to remove their shoes. Security Screening Technologies, the developers behind the project, will teach computers to recognise threats based on high-contrast images of shoes and isolate such threats for secondary screening.

Other projects will include the use of electromagnetic imaging to detect threats in bags, testing samples of gas in cargo containers for explosives, and using machine learning techniques to identify threats on people and in bags.

The £1.8 million investment is part of the government's larger five-year Future Aviation Security Solutions (FASS) programme which will provide additional funds for more pioneering projects to reduce security threats in airports and to improve passenger convenience in the coming years. 

New machine-learning technologies are also expected to reduce the risk of false alarms, reduce the need for manual checks and ensure that passengers can get themselves screened without removing their outer clothing.

According to Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg, the investment is an example of the government's "early adoption and use of cutting edge technology" and will ensure that the UK will continue to lead the way in airport security.

In an email to SC Magazine UK, Paul Norris, senior systems engineer for EMEA at Tripwire, said that it is encouraging to see the UK Government invest further in the area of physical security.

"The first step should be to invest in greater prevention and forensic tools to reduce the threat of an attack. Artificial intelligence or machine learning are already at the core of advanced cyber-security applications and used for statistical analysis. 

"The most successful products in this space are performing data-mining on a large scale to detect trends and irregularities, which can at times be missed or even go unnoticed by a human analyst. It makes perfect sense that this same logic will be applied to physical security, particularly at airports, and it is very encouraging to see the UK Government invest further in this area," he said.

Stuart Clarke, head of security and intelligence solutions at Nuix, also told SC Magazine UK that it is fantastic to see this level of innovation in the aviation security space.

"Technology has the advantage of speed which enables better and more informed decision making. There are many benefits of applying this concept to aviation security. As with any machine learning solution, it is critically important to get training of the underlying models right. Developing and more importantly, continuing to refine the models, will require collective industry experience," he added.
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