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The UK is “on track to become the world’s next Silicon Valley” as Jeremy Hunt reveals the Spring Budget, but cybersecurity gets no mention


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The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has unveiled the spring budget to the UK Houses of Parliament.

The past year has seen huge data leaks, cyber attacks, and security failures for critical infrastructure in the UK, and as a result there was an expectation of a few pennies, or at least a few words, being directed towards cybersecurity.

There were some promising plans for entrepreneurs and investment, but it appears that the government has fallen short in its offerings for SMEs and cybersecurity at a time when many are feeling the squeeze.

Boost for SMBs

In some good news for the little guys, the small business VAT registration threshold has been increased from £85,000 to £90,000, providing some wiggle room for small businesses to grow at a time when many organizations are hesitant to invest money in themselves.

There is also an additional £200 million being channeled into the Recovery Loan Scheme, which is soon to be turned into the ‘Growth Guarantee Scheme’ which will help “11,000 SMEs access the finance they need.”

The Chancellor says that the UK is “on track to become the world's next Silicon Valley,” and is hopeful that changes to pension funds and additional powers for the Pension Regulator and Financial Conduct Authority will entice tech entrepreneurs to “start here and stay here” by unlocking the investment potential of pension funds for small businesses and startups in the UK.

Plans for aging IT systems mentioned, but only for productivity's sake

Defense spending is now at the 2% of GDP target set by NATO, and will rise to 2.5% “as soon as economic conditions allow,” but no mention was made towards investments in cybersecurity.

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy (JCNSS) warned towards the end of last year that ransomware “undoubtedly represents a major threat to UK national security,” but this warning, along with many others, have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

The aging IT systems in the NHS were given the attention they deserved in the budget announcement, but no mention was made of the security risks posed by operating such systems. The driving force behind upgrading archaic systems, at least according to the Chancellor, is to boost productivity and slash the 13 million hours lost per year to outdated IT systems.

The WannaCry attack, which relied heavily on outdated IT systems in order to spread, crippled the NHS along with a number of other institutions on a global scale back in 2017. The rising number of ransomware attacks and the inherent vulnerabilities of operating out-of-date IT systems should be the primary reason for investing in such a critical organization as the NHS.

Despite the Chancellor frequently mentioning that some aspects of the UK economy outstrip those of the US and the G7, there are areas outside of the economy where the UK is falling dangerously behind.

Al Lakhani, CEO of IDEE, said, “We all understand that attacks no longer need to cross physical boundaries to create havoc. But its legislation regarding the use of cybersecurity solutions is weak - well behind what you see in the US and EU - and its investment in cyber is generally lacklustre, as today's Budget proves once again.

“This point is all the more pertinent given the huge investment announced for the digital transformation of the NHS and public sector more generally, which will only increase the threat they face from hackers.

"Spending on the military and clamping down on immigration clearly play better with the voters. But if the Government continues to do so at the expense of protecting the country - its people, its businesses and its public services - from the huge, evolving threat of cyber-attacks, then it is sleepwalking into a digital war zone where defeat is guaranteed."

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