GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre opens in London

The launch coincides with a public drive from Chancellor Philip Hammond to tout the UK as an advanced economy in cybersecurity

British intelligence agency GCHQ has today opened its National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) with a view to addressing a cybersecurity skills gap in the UK, manage cybersecurity needs within the public sector, and consult with private industry.

Chief exec of the NCSC Ciaran Martin said that the centre - based in London - will "lead the response to the most serious incidents and improve the underlying security of the internet through technological improvement and advice to citizens and organisations".

"We want to be at the centre of a new era for online opportunity and help people to feel as safe as possible when using technology to its fullest potential," Martin said.

The launch coincides with a public drive from Chancellor Philip Hammond to tout the UK as an advanced economy in cybersecurity - along with £1.9 billion in the National Cyber Security Strategy, announced in the autumn statement.

Hammond stressed that the UK faces regular attacks of increasing sophistication and that the new centre must bring in collaboration with private industry to be able to ward off this threat.

The Centre is intended to act as a bridge between academia, intelligence, the public sector and private industry. In his speech at the opening, Ciaran Martin called for collaboration from government, security, military, law enforcement and international supporters.

"But in particular this will be about business and the private sector," he said.

The opening coincides with the launch of the NCSC Industry 100 initiative, which aims to place 100 people from private industry in the NCSC by the end of the financial year.

According to a statement from the NCSC: "The expectation is that representation from industry will be from a diverse range of sectors, and from small to large-scale enterprises. The roles will be varied in their nature, occupancy period and security requirements."

The NCSC website provides guidance covering a variety of topics, including enterprise-grade security, procuring security operations from a third party and mobile platforms including Android 7 and iOS 10.

The establishment of the centre - originally scheduled to open in October last year - has been cautiously welcomed by the cybersecurity industry and the technology lobby.

Commenting on the NCSC opening, head of programme for cyber and national security at techUK, Talal Rajab, said: "TechUK welcomes the official opening of the NCSC. Whilst the UK has not suffered from a tier-one cyber threat, the growing level of sustained cyber attacks on UK businesses means we must not be complacent.

"The NCSC, with the help of the private sector, must work to make the UK the hardest possible target for cyber criminals and help to protect the growing digital economy. To do this, it must be accessible by both businesses and the general public, protecting a far wider range of sectors beyond just Critical National Infrastructure."

While the Centre is a good start, says Richard Lack, managing director EMEA for Gigya, it will be the willingness of the private sector to engage and collaborate that makes or breaks the project.

"The official opening of the NCSC is a grand gesture by the UK government to demonstrate that cyber security is firmly on the official agenda," Lack said. "But it will only have real impact if business decision makers, rather than just government and national security-related industries, also take responsibility, in order to protect the enterprise and consumers in a sustainable way."

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