Cybersecurity Experts Slam Government Digital Strategy

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Industry experts have criticized the government’s newly launched Digital Strategy for failing to address the chronic cybersecurity skills shortages experienced by UK firms.

Launched on Wednesday, the new plan is the government’s attempt to maintain a strong digital economy post Brexit, as other countries look to capitalize on the UK’s departure from the world’s largest trading block.

It outlines the following:

“The strategy includes new commitments, including a plan by Lloyds Banking Group to give face-to-face digital skills training to 2.5 million individuals, charities and small and medium businesses by 2020; plans by Barclays to teach basic coding to 45,000 more children and assist up to one million people with general digital skills and cyber awareness; and a pledge by Google, as part of their commitment of five hours of free digital skills for everyone, to help boost digital skills in seaside towns.

"It is part of the government’s ambitions to ensure everyone has the skills they need to flourish in a digitally-driven economy.”

ZoneFox CEO, Jamie Graves, welcomed the roll-out of free basic digital skills programs, but said the lack of investment in STEM subjects threatens to leave “a worrying gap in the security ‘fence’ around the country.”

“Cybercrime is continuing to cripple companies and over two-thirds of businesses can't find enough talent to defend their company against cyber-threats – yet it gets little mention in this new strategy,” he added. “The UK has employer demand exceeding candidate interest by more than three times; surely this is a more pressing issue than Google's coastal town summer school.”

The UK has the second biggest cybersecurity skills gap in the world, according to research released in January, and (ISC)² claimed UK firms are approaching a cybersecurity skills “cliff edge” because young professionals aren’t joining the industry to replace older practitioners.

CensorNet CEO, Ed Macnair, argued that even the plans to give citizens basic cyber skills is not enough.

“Britain's economy relies predominantly on digital infrastructure, which is an obvious strength but also a weakness when faced with threats from hackers and -- more importantly -- insider threats,” he said.

“While the aim to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online is no doubt a commendable one, the worry is that there is still not enough tangible education on cyber security matters -- especially if only one million people are offered the opportunity of such education.”

Antony Walker, deputy CEO at industry association techUK, also focused on skills in his response to the launch.

“While the Strategy places skills at its core, establishing a new Digital Skills Partnership, the UK’s digital economy will suffer if it cannot access international talent in the near term,” he said ni a statement. “To realize the government’s ambition to be a global tech hub, the UK must be a global hub for talent. techUK will hold the secretary of state to her commitment to working in tandem with the Industrial Strategy to provide the UK’s digital economy with the global talent it needs to flourish.”

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