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GCHQ cyber security accelerator programme launches

Neil Merrett Published 11 January 2017

Seven start-ups become first organisations to be part of government-funded programme to work closely with intelligence personnel on devising new technologies


The first tranche of start-up companies that will join the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator have been unveiled as part of a government-funded plan to devise a new wave of cyber-security systems to provide both commercial and operational benefits for UK authorities.

Seven companies will join the accelerator, which launches today, in a move that will see them being provided office space, mentoring and expertise sharing within GCHQ.

The accelerator represents a partnership between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), GCHQ and Wayra UK, which is part of Telefónica Open Future programme, in order to allow UK start-ups to gain access to GCHQ’s personnel and technological expertise in devising new technology.

With its launch this week, the initial selection of companies on the accelerator will start a three-month development programme designed to build on the intelligence service’s staff and investor networks to build up fresh capabilities.

The seven start-ups include:

  • Counterintelligence company Countercraft, producer of a deception platform making use of decoy computers and false data
  • Cyberowl, which produces an early warning system that makes use of analytics to prepare for attacks
  • Cybersmart, producer of a collective intelligence platform offering data visualisation functions
  • Futurescaper, another collective intelligence platform
  • Spherical Defence, which provides a banking application programme interface (API) intrusion detection system
  • StatusToday, provider of an intelligence platform powered through AI that focuses on insider attacks or potential inadvertent mistakes that can compromise security
  • Verimuchme, a digital wallet and exchange platform to provide secure re-use of information for identity assurance needs

Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital and culture, said that the accelerator now being open for business was a vital step in delivering the government’s £1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy.

“Based in Cheltenham, the accelerator will help UK entrepreneurs create cutting-edge technology to better protect the nation from cyber attacks and make going online safer for all,” he said.

Chris Ensor, the deputy director for cyber security skills and growth at the National Cyber Security Centre, said the new programme would be an important step forward for online safety in the UK.

“The accelerator will combine GCHQ’s understanding of the challenges and deep expertise in cyber security with innovative and cutting edge companies,” said Ensor.

In September, NCSC head Ciaran Martin warned that the UK was not yet good enough to deal with the scale of cyber threats and attacks.  The concerns were raised alongside commitments to establish a potential “Great British Firewall” to keep users and organisations from contact with malware and other potential dangers.

Martin said at the time, “We're exploring a flagship project on scaling up DNS filtering: what better way of providing automated defences at scale than by the major private providers effectively blocking their customers from coming into contact with known malware and bad addresses?”

Related articles:

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Chancellor sets out £1.9bn cyber security strategy update

Cyber security chief warns “too many attacks” are doing “far too much damage”

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