Cyber security is by now a priority for everyone, so it’s no surprise that the British government is getting very hot on the skills needed. The problem is that Parliament isn’t satisfied; the Public Accounts Committee has criticised chaotic handling of individual data breaches and a lack of skills in the area.
There is also the issue of the agencies that have the job of taking care of the nation’s electronic frontiers; the suggestion from the PAC is that there are simply too many of them and they are confusing to keep track of.
Many breaches or none
One significant result is that reporting is inconsistent. The PAC notes that some government departments are reporting hundreds or even thousands of breaches of individuals’ data while others are reporting none. Common sense suggests that although it’s technically possible that both sets of data are correct, it’s unlikely.
The obvious question is what to do about the consistency and skills across government departments. Initiatives such as those at Microsoft, which aims to train half a million British people in the use of the cloud by the end of the decade, are a welcome start; however, as we’ve reported on New Statesman before, young people have for some time been finding careers in IT somewhat unappealing. The skills gap is well established and does not appear to be going anywhere – it’s far from unique to the public sector.
The government does have an ongoing cyber security strategy, which has never appeared more important given the allegations about Russian intelligence giving Donald Trump a helpful nudge towards the White House and other evidence of a perceived threat. The money being put towards re-skilling amounts to £1.9bn. Whether this proves to be sufficient, or indeed whether the problem can be solved through the simple application of finance, is another matter.