The NCSC and Microsoft are looking for cybersecurity companies to help protect the UK

Microsoft is partnering with the Government’s National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Accelerator programme, to find and develop start-ups that can make the UK the safest place to live and work online.

It comes as the NCSC warns of rising cybersecurity threats in the UK. The NCSC recently announced that in the past year it has dealt with 723 cybersecurity incidents involving nearly 1,200 victims. These are the highest totals since the NCSC was formed in 2016, having risen 10% and 33% respectively on the previous 12 months.

Ransomware attacks, which prevent companies accessing their files and data unless a fee is paid, have tripled. The NCSC is now seeing a new trend emerge, with hackers threatening to leak sensitive information if money is not handed over.

Microsoft believes it’s crucial that young, innovative companies in the UK are given the support to grow and create products and tools that can protect the UK.

This will be the seventh programme in the Accelerator series, which sees the NCSC work with dynamic new companies to encourage the development of new products, skills, jobs and growth. It will run from January to March 2021.

The NCSC, part of GCHQ, is working with Microsoft to encourage more start-ups to apply and offer more expertise and knowledge to participants. Microsoft will provide access to its own Accelerator alumni network and subject matter experts across cybersecurity and cloud, as well as give eligible start-ups access to powerful technology such as the Azure cloud platform and GitHub Enterprise. The collaboration will also give businesses a streamlined path to selling alongside Microsoft and its global partner ecosystem.

Looking across the Thames at St Paul's Cathedral in London at dusk

The NCSC is looking for solutions that enable safe use of data at scale and are operationally viable in a smart city

The seventh cohort will focus on Smart Cities and the cyber risks associated with:

  • Data Insights – solutions that enable safe use of data at scale and are operationally viable in a smart city
  • Situational Awareness – tools capable of identifying non-traditional devices such as IoT from a range of different vendors, all with their own cybersecurity risk profile
  • Interfacing to critical national infrastructure (CNI) – we are looking for solutions to help shape NCSC guidance across this emerging landscape of smart technologies interfacing with the CNI.
  • Manufacturing and Robotics – given the mobile nature of robotic systems in uncontrolled and semi-controlled environments, we are looking for innovative ways to scale or adapt existing mitigations that provide assurance of correct robot operation to avoid harm, accident or malicious performance degradation.

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said: “Good cybersecurity is the bedrock of our digital economy and will help power our post-pandemic recovery. It gives people the confidence to shop, work and play online and makes business resilient against cybercrime.

“As well as government investment in the NCSC Cyber Accelerator, we are backing tech start-ups through the LORCA programme, which is paying dividends with its network of cutting-edge UK start-ups breaking investment targets and helping create jobs across the country.”

Chris Ensor, Deputy Director for Cyber Skills and Growth at the NCSC, said: “We’re grateful to Microsoft for their involvement with the Cyber Accelerator programme and helping us nurture the most innovative cyber security talent.

“I would encourage all cyber security companies in the UK to take a look at the Cyber Accelerator programme and consider applying. Successful applicants will receive support from our world-class experts, setting them on their way to delivering the most cutting-edge security solutions of the future.”

Microsoft has seen first-hand how cyber security underpins digital transformation and remote working, which has been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft Threat Intelligence teams saw a spike in cyberattacks in early March as cybercriminals added Coronavirus themes to scams and malware. In its latest annual report, the NCSC revealed that more than a quarter of all incidents the organisation handled in the year to August 31, 2020, were related to Coronavirus.

Chris Perkins, General Manager of UK Public Sector at Microsoft, said: “The UK has a long history of innovation in cybersecurity with its roots in the groundbreaking work done at Bletchley Park. But the level of threat we face today is significant and growing. It’s why Microsoft invests more than $1 billion a year in digital safety and analyses more than 600 million security threats per day. It’s why it’s critical we partner with the National Cyber Security Centre and the Cyber Accelerator programme to support the next wave of talent protecting British individuals, businesses and organisations.”

Microsoft for Startups also runs its own programme that is dedicated to helping small companies successfully scale.

“We’re excited to be working with the NCSC to support the fantastic UK-based companies developing innovative technology solutions to help us build better smart cities,” said Amali de Alwis, Managing Director at Microsoft for Startups UK.

The NCSC’s 10-week programme is open now for applications. Participating start-ups are chosen through open competition using technical challenges provided by the NCSC. These challenges identify areas of cybersecurity weakness where new products are needed. During the programme, start-ups receive commercial growth opportunities and unique access to NCSC’s and GCHQ’s world-class expertise to help develop their products. The programme is a collaboration between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the NCSC and Wayra (part of Telefonica).

To apply, or find out more about the programme and assessment criteria, click here. Assessment days are scheduled for November 19, 2020, and December 3, 2020.

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