Business secretary Vince Cable has warned that small companies are not doing enough to protect themselves against cyber attacks.
Speaking in London at the opening of the US-UK Global Cyber Security Innovation Summit, Cable said: “We need to do a lot more to diffuse cyber security awareness among small companies.”
“Intellectual property theft is the most pressing issue for the business world,” Cable told Business Technology.
Announcing a £4 million competition for UK cyber businesses to develop ideas to tackle cyber security threats, Cable’s message for Business Technology readers was that cyber security is a growing business and one that Britain is already a world leader in.
60 per cent of funding will be reserved for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) rather than big technology suppliers.
Cable suggested the sectors with the most pressing security needs are utilities, such as electricity and gas suppliers. He added that this kind of covert electronic warfare already goes on between countries.
Cyber warfare ‘is pursuing inter-state conflict by other means’, the business secretary said. The £4 million fund will launch in March 2015.
The UK expects cyber-security exports to be worth £2 billion in 2015. In 2013 the UK cyber security sector was worth more than £6 billion and employed around 40,000 people.
Cable said there are various strands to cyber security ranging from industrial espionage to governments attacking each other, as has been seen in Ukraine.
The business minister named China as one ‘problematic’ country that was attacking UK business through cyber security attacks.
Cable said that according to the World Economic Forum, the US ranked first worldwide in cyber security preparedness and the UK second.
He described cyber-security as ‘a rapidly growing opportunity as well as a problem’. The UK government has invested £860 million in cyber-security since 2011.
Cable also announced an Open University course on cyber-security aimed at the public as well as businesses.
“Building a strong and resilient cyberspace in the UK is central to ensuring that our companies can make the most of business opportunities online, while avoiding potentially costly threats to the information they hold and the services they provide,” he said.
The business secretary also announced the appointment of industry expert Andy Williams as cyber security small business champion.
And Dr Emma Philpott, managing director of cyber and technology catalyst Key IQ, will lead a project to establish local clusters of small companies working in cyber security. These clusters include Malvern, Cambridge and Surrey.
Robert Rodriguez, founder of US technology firm SINET, added: “God created the first four domains – land, sea, air and earth – but the fifth domain is cyber security, and that was made by man.”
Opening the conference, Rodriguez hailed Britain as the inventor of the worldwide web and the jet engine.
Around 250 government officials and industry experts are attending the two-day event at the British Museum in central London.
How can your business protect itself against cyber attacks? Click here to catch up on coverage of The European Information Security Summit 2014.