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Addressing cybersecurity challenges

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, ISCF, Support

We live in an increasingly digitally-enhanced, connected world.

From voice-controlled smart door locks for the home, to fully automated manufacturing and logistics systems, we rely on technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to cater for our lifestyles, our goods and services.

Image of a connected home showing icons for connectivity and power

These advances promise us a more convenient, a more productive and a more entertaining future.

New technology brings new risks

But with greater technologies and innovation comes potentially greater risks in new areas that we could only imagine 20 years ago.

For instance, our addiction to smartphones has led to a surge in mobile malware, with an average of 24,000 malicious mobile applications blocked each day in 2017, according to cybersecurity firm Symantec.

Cyber-attacks are on the increase

IoT, for both consumers and business, has seen a 600% increase in attacks since 2016. That year – often seen as the beginning of an exponential leap in cybercrime, saw a bot-net attack called Mirai almost bring the internet in Europe and the U.S to its knees by high-jacking 100,000 internet connected devices.

The impact of such attacks is more than technological – each successful attack can cause devastating economic, social and, yes, environmental damage too.

Blue locked padlocks on a background of binary with one unlocked padlock in red

Solving critical issues

As part of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund, we want to try and solve some of the critical issues that society, industry and the research base tell us are the most important. In the R&D space where IoT, AI and cybersecurity meet, we have identified 3 key areas for focused innovation activity.

Firstly, there is a need to ensure that data gathered and used by IoT is protected from attacks – both in transit and storage – and that when (not if), there is an attack, any data loss can be adequately recovered.

Without these protection and recovery mechanisms, businesses would be unable to take full advantage of the benefits IoT and AI offer us.

Code on a screen forming a large word 'hacked' long with smaller words of 'security breach' 'cyber attack, 'system protection'

Secondly, the systems used in industry to monitor and control everything from automated machinery to Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and fire suppressant systems were designed to be deployed on an isolated network.

However, with more off-the-shelf sensors and systems being integrated, new construction standards such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) level 3, and an increasing risk from users and their own connected devices these industrial control systems are now being exposed to new threats.

Thirdly, our high-speed connectivity to – and within – our own homes is now almost a given, with 9 out of 10 people having access to the internet at home in 2018 according to OfCom. And according to BT’s Consumer Division, the average UK household will contain 50 connected devices by 2023.

While vendors happily extol the benefits of the digital home, consumers aren’t always fully aware of the risks posed by a cyber security breach, nor can they be expected to be experts in protecting or countering such attacks beyond changing passwords.

Image of hooded person/hacker against a screen background showing the words 'internet scam, malware, virus computer, update, pfishing, firewall & botnet'

We need to act now

The three challenges above are not all that we face when it comes to IoT and cyber security.  But they are real.  They are dangerous.  And they are inevitable

If we don’t begin to address them now with key enabling technologies such as AI, distributed ledger technologies and 5G, we risk playing catch-up to those that seek to do us harm.

Demonstrator competition

There’s been plenty of great work achieved so far by industry and academia, including the Privacy, Ethics Trust And Security (PETRAS) project as part of IoTUK. And to continue this work, we’ve launched a competition as the first industry-led phase of UKRI’s Securing Digital Technologies at the Periphery programme, led jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Centre’s (EPSRC) and Innovate UK.

Demonstrators addressing cyber security challenges in the Internet of Things provides up to £6million for collaborative research and development projects addressing the three key challenges described above.

To find out more about the competition, opening on Monday 18th February 2019 and closing on the 1st May 2019.

Briefing events will be held in:

  • London - 26th February 2019
  • Manchester – 27th February 2019
  • Edinburgh – 28th February 2019
  • Cardiff – 5th March 2019
  • Belfast – 7th March 2019

For help or enquiries about this competition, or anything else related to Innovate UK, please contact our amazing support team on 0300 321 4357 or


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