Government debuts Cyber Essentials Scheme to improve UK response to cyber attacks


The government has released details about its new Cyber Essentials Scheme, which aims to improve the response of UK businesses to cyber threats.

Working alongside the Information Security Forum and British Standards Institution, the government has created a set of guidelines for UK companies to help them shore up their security and prevent future attacks.

As part of the scheme, cyber secure firms will be able to differentiate themselves from competitors in the market by qualifying for badges that display their aptitude in online security. Insurance organisations are also offering incentives for participants.

Participating companies will be provided with a step-by-step framework involving five key controls: boundary firewalls and internet gateways, secure configuration, access control, malware protection and patch management.

"Education is essential, as while larger organisations are more likely to have established frameworks in place, there are many smaller organisations that will find this process far more challenging," said Skyscape chief technology officer Simon Hansford.

"Schemes such as this are therefore crucial in order to equip businesses with the knowledge and actionable steps that will enable them to understand and recognise threat actors and reduce risks within their own organisations."

From 1 October 2014 the government will require all suppliers bidding for ICT contracts to have been certified through the Cyber Essentials Scheme.

Certification by the scheme can cover the whole of an company or a smaller sub-set, but the scope "must be clearly defined" according to the framework documents.

Costs for the scheme will be set by individual certification firms in competition with each other "in order to allow market forces to set the rates". The prices will scale depending on the size of a company and for how many areas they may wish to certify.

"This is the sort of support from government that will make a real difference to UK businesses," said Rob Cotton, CEO at NCC Group. "By putting standards in place it gives SMEs an attainable security benchmark, and one which will provide significant protection from a wide range of attacks."