35,290,361 = the number of Ashley Madison accounts leaked in August.

40,000,000 = the number of credit card details stolen in the 2013 attack on Target.

US$ 171,000,000 = the approximate cost to Sony after its PlayStation Network was hacked in 2011.


These are just a few of the well documented cyber-attacks that have hit the headlines in recent years. In reality, there are thousands (if not more) of these types of attack happening every day; from botnets sending out thousands of phishing emails, to targeted malicious attacks on online databases.

How can we improve online security?

The short answer is: it’s complicated.

Security can be presented as a trade-off between usability and protection. The lock on your front door may be frustrating when balancing shopping bags while struggling to reach your key. However, it provides protection against potential burglars, hoping to find an open house to explore. Online security is no different. It may seem arduous to be bombarded with seemingly constant alerts to update your antivirus software, but without these regular updates, protection may not be sufficient.

Just as a locked door can be picked, cyber firewalls and antivirus software are not impenetrable. Cybercriminals can, and do, find ways to overcome our seemingly secure systems.

All is not lost though; cybersecurity researchers around the world are searching for and developing solutions that identify, assess and manage risks online and increase our defences. New research into existing tools can provide useful evaluations of their effectiveness, as well as leading to the development of new cybersecurity tools. This creation of new knowledge, products and services can improve our security online and reduce the impact of cyber-attacks.

The UK’s digital economy is estimated to contribute between 10 and 14 per cent to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, research into how to better protect the digital economy, as well as creating new products and services, could present an economic opportunity to increase the value of the UK market.

Cybersecurity Research Policy

Countries such as Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and the USA have made cybersecurity research a priority and developed cybersecurity research strategies. Our current policy project on cybersecurity research looks at these strategies and how support for the unclassified cybersecurity research system is necessary to ensure the UK is well placed to tackle emerging and future challenges.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Programme, launched in 2011, will come to an end in March 2016. With a new Strategic Defence and Security Review due later this year, various departments in Government are currently putting forward their requests for funding and we anticipate that a part of this funding will be set aside for cybersecurity in the UK.

With our personal lives, businesses and national infrastructure increasingly becoming reliant on cybersecurity, will the Government prioritise cybersecurity research? Watch this space…