The UK's investment in cyber security has been branded as ‘embarrassing' by the former US cyber intelligence officer at the department of defence.

Bob Ayers, a former cyber intelligence officer for the US Army and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who also worked with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), told Computing that the government's investments and attention to cyber security nowhere near matched what he had in the US over 20 years ago.

He said: “The US government had an organised cyber security programme with 155 assigned staff and a $100 million-a-year budget - and that was a continuing $100 million a year. Now, 20 years later, the UK is spending a phenomenally smaller figure and starting into [its cyber security strategy] and we're saying this is good? No, this is embarrassing.”

Ayers told SC Magazine earlier this year that when he was the senior cyber security adviser for Britain's £650 million cyber security defence programme in 2010-11, "the MoD was roughly where the US Department of Defense was in 1992, roughly 20 years behind".

Yesterday, it was announced that a £500,000 Global Centre for Cyber Security and Capacity Building will be based at the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford and act as a research hub that aims to help the UK and other nations better understand how to adequately protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Ross Brewer, vice president and managing director for international markets at LogRhythm, welcomed this move, calling it a way for the ‘good guys' to collectively fight back.

He said: “The UK government has long been thought to shy away from the issue of cyber security. Our own research last year validated that sense of public frustration, with 45 per cent of respondents demanding that the government steps up the protection of national assets against cyber threats, and 43 per cent believing that the threat of international cyber war and cyber terrorism must be taken very seriously now.

“However over the last year, government officials have upped the ante on cyber security and Britain is now leading the way with funding and initiatives to support the on-going international struggle against cyber crime – despite recent claims to the contrary. This announcement heralds the next logical step to achieving that objective, and strikes a good balance, as the often proposed alternative of pre-emptive strikes could incite terrible consequences from an international relations perspective.”