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Cyber secure future

15 July 2013
IET cyber security expert Hugh Boyes

Hugh Boyes: 'Results showed a clear demand for more individuals with a wider understanding of delivering secure designs.'

IET cyber security expert Hugh Boyes talks about the new alliance formed to protect UK commerce and infrastructure.

Following the launch in November 2011 of the UK government’s National Cyber Security Strategy, the IET was invited to attend a joint government/industry workshop. One of the outcomes was a recommendation that the professional bodies should encourage initiatives to address the UK skills gap in this area. It was also suggested that it would be beneficial if more students are encouraged to complete Masters-level courses in cyber security.

At the time I was working for the IET as project manager on two projects to deliver enhancements to the IET’s online presence. As an IET Fellow looking to promote the profession, and with a background in the public sector and security-related projects, I volunteered to provide ideas on how the IET should respond to this challenge. I attended an Association of Chief Police Officers cyber-crime conference, which highlighted vulnerabilities in our critical national infrastructure and the built environment, both areas where the IET has expertise.

I worked with Sandra Godman, IET Thought Leadership programme manager, to pull together some proposals. One of these related to the development of guidance material on cyber security in the built environment. Another was for a sponsorship scheme for cyber security MSc students.

We recognised that if the sponsorship scheme was to address the needs of government and industry, the IET would need to work closely with other key stakeholders with an interest and influence in this area. In June last year we formed a stakeholder group attended by representatives from the IET, the Chartered Institute for IT, the Institute of Information Security Professionals, the Information Assurance Advisory Council and e-skills UK. The meeting was chaired by Sir David Pepper, a retired director of GCHQ, and with his encouragement the five organisations agreed to work together to define the requirements and propose a way forward.

It became clear that to launch a sponsorship scheme we would need a formal agreement as well as financial support. To provide a better understanding of some of the cyber security and skills issues that engineering and technology SMEs faced, the IET commissioned a survey. The results showed a clear demand for more individuals with skills in systems architecture, network and software engineering and for a wider understanding of delivering secure designs. We also took note of the increased interest in IET events related to SCADA security.

In January we started to finalise plans. The five member organisations agreed that we would set up a formal collaboration agreement and undertake a series of initiatives, the first being the launch of a cyber security MSc sponsorship scheme. The IET Executive Committee agreed to launch a project to set up the collaboration agreement and to run a pilot sponsorship scheme.

In early March, work commenced on the drafting of the Collaboration Agreement. After a number of iterations, we signed the agreement at the end of May. The Cyber Security Skills Alliance had been formed.

The project has selected four universities for the sponsorship scheme: De Montfort, Lancaster, Plymouth and Warwick. We are working with them and the Cyber Security Challenge UK to encourage suitable applicants.

The Alliance member organisations are now encouraging their industry partners to provide sponsorship funding. The Alliance members are working on a number of initiatives to address the skills gap, these include:

• A pilot scheme to provide internships and work experience in cyber security. This is being led by IAAC and builds on a scheme run by CREST (an organisation for penetration testers).
• We are in discussion with GCHQ about establishing a certification process for cyber security MSc courses, which will allow the universities to apply for accreditation.
• e-skills UK is developing an apprentice scheme for cyber security technicians, with the aim of launching the first cohort of cyber security apprentices later this year.

Find the IET Cyber Security group on LinkedIn ( =4009529) and the MyCommunity platform ( files/297) or contact the project team at

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