Speech

Government's role in supporting the cyber security sector: Matt Hancock speech

The Minister for the Cabinet Office spoke at the start of a trade mission to Israel on UK government support for the cyber security sector.

Thank you for being here today and for the warm welcome we have received.

I’d like to begin by thanking Herzog, Fox and Neeman for hosting us today, and the Israeli National Cyber Bureau and UK Israel Tech Hub for organising the workshop.

I am full of admiration for what can only be described as the modern transformation of Israel.

David Ben Gurion wanted to see the Negev bloom. And the flourishing cyber ecosystem in Beer Sheva must be a fulfilment of his dreams.

You have transformed an arid desert into a Silicon Valley and brought Israeli companies, academia, public authorities, venture capitalists, and multinationals together to produce a fertile breeding ground of ideas and enterprise.

And it is not just Beer Sheva. Israel’s cyber ecosystem is thriving in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Nazareth and beyond.

It is an amazing and brilliant fact that Israel has the highest density of cyber and digital start-ups per capita in the world. We are very jealous of this fact. So I thought I’d do something about it, and come and learn from this start-up nation; from the Israeli spirit of innovation and mission.

I am delighted to lead a fantastic group of businesses representing the best of British industry and academia.

I hope we find businesses on both sides with an opportunity to showcase their products, discover areas of mutual interest and identify opportunities for partnership. And I hope to see concrete outcomes flowing from the discussions. We want to boost our trade, encourage even more Israeli investment in the UK and oppose those calling for boycotts.

The problem

So what is the challenge we face? New technologies, including digital technologies, give the world and its citizens opportunities like never before. This connection has helped more people escape poverty around the world, at a pace never seen. Yet this new opportunity brings new threats.

We are here today as cyber security is increasingly important. To our citizens, to our businesses, to our infrastructure, and to government itself. In the UK, our mission to create better digital public services for citizens is wholly dependent on the ability to protect our networks, our users and our data.

As the minister responsible for both digital government and cyber security in the UK government, it is my duty to drive progress on both of these interdependent issues.

Part of that means supporting the cyber security sector, helping companies innovate and learn from the best. And that is the theme of the workshop today. Part means better protection of government itself, and I’ll touch on that later.

As you will know, this is increasingly difficult because the volume and complexity of cyber attacks is increasing, both in scale and complexity.

Cybercrime, espionage, or attacks on critical infrastructure, from both state and non-state actors are increasing. The average cost of the most severe online security breaches for bigger companies now starts at almost £1.5 million. The number of significant attacks has doubled in the UK in the last year alone.

What we are doing

And cyber security is a shared responsibility. It requires the engagement of the whole of society. When it comes to protecting our critical national infrastructure, the importance of partnership between government and industry is particularly important.

You lead the world in making this partnership effective, and I want to learn how. You lead in the world in bringing government expertise and private enterprise together and we want to know how. In the UK we are establishing a National Cyber Centre to provide business and the government with a single point of contact and source of advice on how to manage cyber security risk.

The new Centre will make it easier for government and industry to share information on cyber threats to better protect the UK. And it will give us a new platform to handle incidents in real time, ensuring a faster and more effective response to major attacks. It will be critical in joining the secret and public-facing worlds together.

In the first instance this is to protect UK Crucial National Infrastructure (CNI). In the UK, where much of our CNI is owned and operated by the private sector, companies are responsible for ensuring privately-operated CNI is cyber secure.

New proposals

We need to get the design right. And we want to do more. In November we announced that the UK government will invest £1.9 billion over the next 5 years in cyber security. This means we’re nearly doubling our current investment to make the UK one of the safest places to do business online.

More widely, we are strengthening law enforcement capabilities to ensure that cyber criminals can’t escape justice.

We are boosting skills, sponsoring students and rolling out a major programme for the talented teenagers, involving after-school sessions with expert mentors, challenging projects, and summer schools. A number of academic initiatives in the UK are based on Israeli models of identifying and nurturing young cyber talent.

But cyber isn’t just about government alone.

The UK’s cyber security sector already contributes over £17 billion to the economy. Our ambition is for the UK to develop an innovative and truly world-class cyber security sector that will protect our national security.

We want to create a cyber ecosystem in which cyber start-ups proliferate, get the investment and support they need to win business around the world, to provide a pipeline of innovation that channels ideas between the private sector, government and academia.

We will establish cyber innovation centres to support early-stage companies to commercialise their products. I look to the Israeli model as an exemplary precedent.

And we are setting up a £165 million cyber and defence fund to invest in the next generation of cyber-security companies.

To get this right, international collaboration is crucial.

As a fellow member of the D5, which brings together the 5 leading digital governments in the world, we have been working closely with you to help reform government technology.

British/Israeli collaboration in technology and innovation has facilitated a multitude of business partnerships in areas such as fintech, cleantech, digital health and more.

I want to see this partnership strengthened. So I can announce today that we have launched a new academic engagement between the UK and Israel in the emerging area of cyber-physical security – an area vital to the safety and security of our economies and our infrastructure.

Israeli experts will engage in joint research with UK academics in cyber-security. We will launch a competition to find the best ideas and people to work together to develop research focussed on what is another new frontier: protecting our cyber physical systems: like protecting industrial control systems, the internet of things and driverless cars.

I can also announce that our leading cyber security bodies, CERT-UK and CERT-IL will strengthen their engagement and provide greater situational awareness through sharing incident information, malware analysis, methodologies, policies and best practice.

It is my hope and intention that we can build on what we have done in the past by identifying and developing opportunities for collaboration amongst our 2 nations.

For perhaps no 2 countries know more, in times both historic and present, of the need to fight for our security, to keep our people safe and free. While very real physical battles persist, the new frontier in that fight is the cyber war.

Together, we must ensure that cyberspace is resilient to malicious attacks, and remains open and free for the innovation and progress that is the embodiment of the human spirit. Our task is no less than that.

So, together, let us make it happen.

Thank you very much.