Nurturing future cyber security players

17th April 2018

Russell Haworth

Russell Haworth

If cyber security were a horse, I’d put my money on it. Cyber security is one of the largest technology sectors and growing exponentially: the global cyber security market was 35 times larger in 2017 than 2004 [Cybersecurity Ventures]. Global spend on related products and services to combat cyber crime is expected to exceed $1 trillion cumulatively from 2017 by 2021, while the cyber security unemployment rate is expected to remain constant at 0%.

It has become a key priority for the UK Government, with widely-stated ambitions for the country to be a global leader in cyber security, and one of the safest places in which to do business. This can only be achieved, though, if we have the right talent coupled with the right mechanisms for support. We need to ensure that our cyber security stars of the future are able to navigate their way to the top of an industry that is forever playing catch up to cyber criminals who continue to devise new and ingenious ways of exploiting the digital arena.

Money is crucial. It’s no secret that there are lots of very smart people running innovative start-ups, developing ideas that could prove invaluable to the industry. Unfortunately, they face the challenge of simply trying to keep the lights on while they explore options that won’t immediately be monetisable. They need support and guidance, learning from those already immersed in the issues of the sector, and to share their ideas to help accelerate a great concept into something truly beneficial as well as accessible.

In short, they need an organisation like CyLon. As one of the world’s leading cyber security accelerators, CyLon runs annual programmes for cyber security start-ups, providing funding and mentoring alongside study courses to give them the boost they need. Immersive Labs is one start-up that received the ‘CyLon Treatment’ a number of years ago. They described their CyLon Cohort experience as “transformational”, with the company now employing 20 people and garnering a strong reputation for the practical learning environment they provide to help organisations close the cyber security skills gap.

We were keen to become involved in CyLon’s work and are sponsoring the programme, starting with Cohort 7. This is the seventh edition of a programme geared towards ‘supercharging’ the early stage cyber security ecosystem by supporting eight start-ups from around the world, including the UK. The chosen eight companies will have access to training programmes, support from an industry-leading mentor, and a £15,000 seed investment. This targeted support will help them further develop their innovative ideas, and ultimately help develop fit-for-purpose cyber defence capability to promote the safe use of the internet for businesses and individuals.

Innovation is the watchword for the start-ups selected, from a company developing an artificial immune system for robots, to one offering a view through hacker’s eyes to better review system vulnerabilities when creating cyber security defences. The range and breadth of their areas of focus bear testament to the complexity and multi-faceted nature of the current threat landscape. The proactive cyber security measures of organisations and industry must be equally complex to meet the challenges that a growth in digital presents to our society. New thinking and new ideas are paramount to meet today’s – and tomorrow’s – cyber security complexities, and these start-ups need help to survive and thrive.

Targeted investment in talent within the cyber security realm is never wasted, and certainly has better odds than the horses. Despite the threat landscape looking increasingly dire, the start-ups involved in Cohort 7 give us every reason to be encouraged. Making systems and infrastructure cyber secure will always be a battle, but the more talent we nurture, the greater the odds of success.