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Microsoft backs NCSC's effort to bolster UK cyber security

The security agency is hoping to nurture cyber talent inside the startup community

Abstract image of network connections superimposed over a view of London

Microsoft has joined the National Cyber Security Centre's (NCSC) Cyber Accelerator programme that seeks to find and develop UK startups that can help boost the country's security.

This is the NCSC's seventh accelerator programme and it will run from January to March 2021.

In a bid to encourage more startups to apply to the scheme, Microsoft has said it will offer access to its own accelerator programmes and experts across cyber security and cloud. This will also include access to its services, such as Azure and GitHub, and participants will also have a path to its sales and partner ecosystem.

For this year, the programme will focus on smart cities and the risks associated with them. This includes data insights and services that enable the safe use of data at scale, the development of tools to remotely identify risks in IoT devices, and innovations to help shape NCSC guidance across smart technologies.

The announcement follows a recent warning from the NCSC that cyber security threats to the UK were on the rise, with the security agency having already dealt with 723 incidents this year, involving nearly 1,200 victims. This includes increases in ransomware attacks, which have tripled in 2020, according to the NCSC.

Commenting on the news, Matt Warman, parliamentary under secretary for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said that "good cyber security" would help power the UK's post-pandemic recovery and make business resilient against cyber crime. He also referenced another government-backed startup scheme, the LORCA programme, which he said was "paying dividends" by breaking investment targets and job creation.

Microsoft said that it was "crucial" that young and innovative UK-based businesses were given the support they need to scale and create the products and service that can protect the country.

"We're grateful to Microsoft for their involvement with the Cyber Accelerator programme and helping us nurture the most innovative cyber security talent," said Chris Ensor, the deputy director for Cyber Skills and Growth at the NCSC.

This is one of a number of programmes launched by the NCSC recently. The security body is also looking to fill key positions within its organisation as part of the 'Industry 100' programme, an effort to bring together private sector and public sector experts together to help deal with UK cyber threats. A number of positions have already been filed, the NCSC said, but it is still actively recruiting more, with opportunities in security engineering, communications and finance.

A full list of the Industry 100 vacancies can be found here.

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