Cyber security upgrades for Universities and Colleges

The government’s latest National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) proposal makes a big play for the inclusion of academic institutions in the education and training of next generation data security professionals. But for the five year plan to deliver, universities and colleges may have to get their own house in order first by upgrading their existing cyber security network infrastructure.

Philip Hammond has pledged to work closely with the UK’s four separate education systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to co-ordinate a response to the ongoing data security talent shortage by integrating cyber security into the education system between now and 2021. That will involve key changes to policies and processes within those education systems. It could also mean new security infrastructure is needed to support the classroom based activities, after-school sessions, projects and summer schools that have been proposed.

Any supplier maintaining infrastructure in public sector organisations, including local government owned educational establishments, is also likely to have to demonstrate that high level security features are switched on by default. Plus, with many of the systems in situ using legacy hardware and software, there is a good chance they will need to be upgraded to pass muster.

Similarly, kitting out the two innovation centres and additional testing facilities earmarked for security start-ups to develop their products could be a lucrative contract for somebody.

Much of the NCSS is focussed on nurturing data security skills amongst students and apprentices. Again, that is no bad thing for infrastructure suppliers given an ongoing security skills shortage that is fuelling high levels of employee churn as talented staff are tempted to rival firms with higher salaries and more favourable working conditions.

One thing the industry probably can’t rely on though is the level of investment in government backed cyber security initiatives being promised – £1.9bn, ominously reminiscent of the £1.9bn announced by George Osborne a year earlier while the precise destination for the bulk of all that cash remains a mystery. Don’t hold your breath.


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