UK government to spend £1.9 billion to bolster cybersecurity

The goal is to make the U.K. one of the safest places in the world to do business

The U.K. government will spend £1.9 billion (US $2.3 billion) over the next five years to pump up its cybersecurity defenses and pay for new research, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said.

The goal of the spending, part of a new national cybersecurity strategy, is to make the U.K. one of the "safest places in the world to do business," with a world-class cybersecurity industry and workforce, Hammond said Tuesday.

"We will focus on raising the cost of mounting an attack against anyone in the U.K., both through stronger defences and better cyber skills," wrote Hammond, head of the country's treasury. "This is no longer just an issue for the IT department but for the whole workforce. Cyber skills need to reach into every profession."

The cybersecurity strategy focuses on defense, deterrence, and development of new cybersecurity technologies, the government said. Hammond announced the strategy at a Microsoft event in London.

The U.K. government has seen some recent success in fighting cyberattacks, Hammond said. Phishing sites based in the U.K. are often taken down in less than an hour, when previously, they could stay active for a day, he said in a news release. The government has also reduced hacker spoofing of its own emails, with spoofing of taxrefund@gov.uk going from 50,000 per day to "effectively zero" in the past six weeks, he said.

The U.K. government is also working to hire more cybersecurity specialists. This year, it is recruiting more than 50 cybercrime investigators and other specialists in its National Cyber Crime Unit, Hammond said.

The country's focus on cybersecurity development will include a new Cyber Security Research Institute, a coalition of universities that will focus on improving the security of smartphones, tablets, and laptops. One area of research will be replacing passwords with new technologies.

A new cybersecurity Innovation Centre will focus on developing innovative technologies and products and on funding training and support for cyber startups. It will also work on helping academics commercialize their cybersecurity research, the government said.

"Government has a clear leadership role, but we will also foster a wider commercial ecosystem, recognising where industry can innovate faster than us," Hammond wrote in the cybersecurity strategy. "This includes a drive to get the best young minds into cyber security."

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