Government Invests £36m To Bolster Chip Cyber Defence

The British government has pledged a £36 million investment to bolster UK efforts to tackle the ongoing range of cyber threats to companies and the general public.

The announcement revealed that the government has teamed with chip designer ARM to “develop new chip technologies that are more resistant to cyber threats.”

The investment comes as around a third of businesses report having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months.

ARM partnership

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom claims that the investment will mean that “British businesses and the public are set to be better protected from hostile cyber-attacks and online threats like disinformation and cyber-bullying through a new government-backed partnership with industry, announced today.”

The ARM partnership to develop new chip technologies that are more resistant to cyber threats, is apparently the next phase of the government’s Digital Security by Design initiative.

According to the government, the average cost of a cyber-attack on a business – where a breach has resulted in loss of data or assets – has increased by more than £1,000 since 2018 to £4,180.

It believes that while basic tasks “such as having strong passwords and updating software regularly are the best defence for homes and businesses, having innovative hardware and systems solutions are critical to defend advanced technology and our defence systems.”

The government hopes that its ARM partnership will result in chips that can potentially prevent hackers from remotely taking control of computer systems.

“Cyber-attacks can have a particularly nasty impact on businesses, from costing them thousands of pounds in essential revenue to reputational harm,” said Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

“Cyber-criminals operate in the shadows, with the severity, scale and complexity of breaches constantly evolving,” Leadsom added. “It’s critical that we are ahead of the game and developing new technologies and methods to confront future threats, supporting our businesses and giving them peace of mind to deliver their products and services safely.”

“Investing in our world-leading researchers and businesses to develop better defence systems makes good business and security sense,” she concluded.

Online dangers

The government also announced another project, backed by £18 million government investment, through the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), that will tackle some of the dangers of the online world from privacy abuses and wrongful use of data like disinformation and online fraud.

The initiative will help provide solutions to some of the issues identified in the government’s Online Harms white paper.

The project will help understand what businesses and individuals need to reduce the harm they are exposed to by using online platforms and will aim to develop more trustworthy technology.

The government said that these investments come in addition to £1.9 billion the government is already investing through its National Cyber Security Strategy, announced back in 2016.

Take action

The additional funding was welcomed by experts, but they warned that the cyber risks remain a very real threat and will be for some time, unless action is taken.

“It has become increasingly obvious that the threat of a hostile cyber-attack progressively threatens to damage and destroy both businesses and individuals in the UK,” said Tim Dunton, MD at Nimbus Hosting.

“This new cash injection is certainly a step in the right direction towards protecting our businesses and our sensitive private information, simultaneously encouraging nationwide awareness of the cyber-issue,” added Dunton. “However, this new fund will not stop attacks altogether, nor will it take affect immediately.”

“Therefore, there is a number of things that organisations and individuals must do in the meantime to protect themselves from hackers and malware,” said Dunton. “This includes investing in cyber security software, upskilling employees with cyber skills, and, most importantly, encouraging cyber secure online behaviour, protocols and procedures across organisations – this starts with operating a safe, secure online domain and IT system which is constantly kept up to date.”

Another expert welcomed the government decision to team up with ARM.

“The UK government’s partnership with Arm is a significant milestone in its strategy to ‘design out’ cyber threats, and signifies a growing recognition that defensive cyber security strategies alone are not enough,” said Derek Weeks, VP and DevOps Advocate at Sonatype.

“For too long businesses have focused on building walls to keep the bad guys out, and have failed to address critical security flaws within the technology itself,” said Weeks. “To truly protect against cyber threats, security can’t be an afterthought; companies need to go on the offence, and design security into their software and hardware from the very beginning. Security must be everyone’s job.”

“Arm has rightly said that achieving robust security requires a radical shift,” said Weeks. “Businesses need to follow Arm’s lead, and proactively build security into devices, applications, and software from the start.”

The message is clear then that both businesses and individuals need to invest in cyber security.

In June the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned in a new report that the United Kingdom is now more than ever, “particularly vulnerable to the risk of cyber attacks.”

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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