January 18, 2019

Brexit could increase the UK’s cyberattack risk – is education the answer?

By Lucy Ingham

Brexit runs the risk of making the UK less able to defend against a cyberattack, prompting one expert to call for an increased focus on cybersecurity education in schools.

Global cyberattacks are expected to be increasingly costly in the next few, with state-sponsored attacks and advanced persistent threats against vital infrastructure likely to continue to pose a serious problem.

However, while the UK is generally considered strong when it comes to cybersecurity, we still rely on our European neighbours to augment our capabilities – an option that we may not have once Brexit occurs.

“Whatever the ultimate outcome following this week’s parliamentary vote, one thing is certain: it is more important than ever that we develop our own home-grown talent, especially when it comes to cybersecurity, rather than relying on other nations to provide that expertise,” said  James Lyne, Head of Research and Development at SANS Institute,.

“According to the National Cyber Security Index 2018, the UK ranked 8th in a country-by-country assessment of cybersecurity capabilities.

“While appearing in the top 10 out of a list of 100 is a definite positive, a departure from the EU could affect our ability to defend against cyberattack, with reports claiming that the UK will lose out on vital funding for tech innovation and research.”

Education needed to mitigate Brexit cyberattack risks

With cyberattack risk such a concern, Lyne believes that education is essential to protecting the UK’s cyber defence capabilities in the long term.

“It’s so important for industry to collaborate and to work with Government on initiatives that focus on nurturing homegrown cybersecurity talent,” he said.

“Indeed, there is now wider industry acknowledgement that we need to do more to engage the younger generation in cybersecurity at an early age in order to help plug the cyber security skills gap.”

One approach to this is in the use of cybersecurity education programmes, such as the Cyber Discovery programme created by Lyne.

“Programmes such as Cyber Discovery, which is being delivered by SANS for the UK Government as part of its Cyber First initiative, are beginning to address this lack of engagement,” he explained.

“The programme aims to spark interest and aptitude in cybersecurity among 14-18-year-olds, arming the workforce of tomorrow with the tools they need now to help make Britain more competitive and more secure.”

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