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Cyber defence

The single, greatest challenge to the expansion of the Internet of Things (‘IoT’) is its vulnerability to cyberattack. There are numerous other concerns including around privacy and surveillance, the interoperability of devices and forming appropriate institutions and regulations. But security is the thorniest issue, writes Emanuele Angelidis, CEO of Breed Reply, an incubator for startups delivering Internet of Things services.

The widescale disruption caused by the cyberattack on Yahoo in 2013, where data from a billion user accounts was compromised, brought to light just how vulnerable seemingly secure networks are to ambush. Since then, the number of breaches has been rising. According to figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as many as 46 per cent of UK companies reported a cyberattack last year – up 24 per cent in 2015.

The IoT ecosystem is to grow to an estimated 22.5 billion devices over the next five years. Combined with increasing costs associated with cybersecurity and the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK cannot afford any more attacks, especially given that an eighth of the country’s GDP comes from the digital economy. Reassuringly, the call to action is being heard with the emergence of a burgeoning cyber defence market, underpinned by not only technological advances flowing from larger and well-resourced companies, but also intelligent security systems being developed by SMEs. Darktrace, for example, created ‘Antigena’, a technology that acts on networks in the same way the human immune system does on eliminating bacteria and diseases in the body.

With SMEs making up 99.9 per cent of the UK private sector, it is imperative that the cybersecurity community is provided with both financial and operational support in order to commercialise innovation. The benefits are clear – success within the cybersecurity sector helps boost the economy with valuable exports, protects public and private data, and supports the country’s critical infrastructure.
The government has taken promising steps, setting up the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) last year and providing so-called cyber apprenticeships with national infrastructure suppliers, such as TfL. It has also awarded 13 UK universities a national status as cybersecurity research centres of excellence – a deserving salute to the talent and expertise within the UK.

Whitehall initiatives, however, are not enough on their own. Private sector investment is also crucial. And there is no shortage of evidence, highlighting that SMEs offering cybersecurity solutions using Artificial Intelligence (AI) are worthwhile investments.
Though US-based, both Amazon and Hewlett Packard acquired AI cybersecurity start-ups, Harvest.ai and Niara, for princely sums this year. Other demonstrations of confidence come from companies like Breed Reply. As operational investors in IoT starts-ups, it has invested in RazorSecure, based in the UK, which develops intelligent cybersecurity systems to protect planes, trains and automobiles.
A recent PwC report revealed that the UK invests above than the global average in IoT and AI, and boasts higher skill levels in cybersecurity. Considering that the IoT is beginning to infiltrate almost every sector, there are some golden opportunities for cybersecurity entrepreneurs. And the need is urgent, if we are to keep pace with criminals and hackers who are working relentlessly to take down or disrupt our digital defences.


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