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Safer Streets Fund awards £50m to improve security in local communities

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

£50 million of new funding will be given to communities across England and Wales, with money going to police forces, local authorities, British Transport Police and eligible groups to prevent violence against women and girls in public, neighbourhood crime and anti-social behaviour.

These projects will be able to roll out extra CCTV and streetlighting in their communities and expand work to change attitudes and behaviours and prevent these crimes happening in the first place.

Northamptonshire, Humberside and Nottinghamshire PCCs are just some of the organisations which have already received funding through previous rounds. The money has been spent on home security, community outreach and initiatives such as football and boxing, to divert young people from crime.

This is the fourth round of funding from the Safer Street Fund and takes the total awarded through this fund and the Safety of Women at Night Fund to £125 million.

The Safer Streets Fund allows forces and local authorities to invest in transformative crime prevention initiatives.

The latest round of the fund is the first to accept bids from eligible civil society organisations, and among the successful bidders for this round is Her Centre, a London-based charity which offers free and confidential advocacy, counselling, advice and training relating to domestic abuse, rape and sexual abuse and other issues that affect women.

Her Centre has been awarded £140,000 to deliver support to victims of sexual harassment, assault, rape, and stalking so that they recover confidence to live lives free of fear. Her Centre will also use the funding to work to help prevent acts of violence against women through active bystander training and engagement with young people around understanding and responding to violence against women and girls in areas particularly affected by these issues.

Marking one year since the publication of the VAWG Strategy, the government is also announcing the launch of a targeted consultation on whether there should be a new offence for public sexual harassment. Experts from a range of sectors, including charities, the police, law, education and transport, are invited to share their views on whether a new specific offence would help to tackle this issue.

This follows the VAWG Strategy’s Call for Evidence which saw over 180,000 responses, the majority from the public, and complements other work the government is undertaking to tackle public sexual harassment, such as new police guidance and forthcoming new guidance for prosecutors to make sure existing laws are implemented, and the ‘Enough’ behaviour change campaign.

The Tackling VAWG strategy made clear that in addition to supporting victims, we must also prevent crimes being committed in the first place.

The Home Office has awarded over £25 million over the last two years to Police and Crime Commissioners to support increasing the availability of interventions for domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators. These interventions aim to reduce the risk posed by perpetrators and hold them to account, including through group or individual behaviour change programmes.

The Early Awareness Stalking Intervention programme, overseen by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and funded by the Home Office, is one of the first attempt of its kind in England and Wales to deliver rehabilitative treatment for stalkers, which aims to improve victim/survivor safety.

West Midlands Victims’ Commissioner, Nicky Brennan, said: “There is no excuse for abuse of any kind. Reducing incidence of crime is paramount and that’s why we are working hard on prevention and early intervention in the West Midlands, particularly in tackling violence against women and girls.

“That is why we partnered with West Midlands Police, Midlands Psychology Services, Black Country Women’s Aid, The Alice Ruggles Trust and the University of Derby to pilot and evaluate the Early Awareness Stalking Intervention across the whole West Midlands, through funding from the 2021 Home Office Perpetrator Fund.

“Early results are promising and we have already learnt a lot and are looking forward to a full evaluation early next year.”

New report reveals impact of defence sector on UK economy

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

A new economic report published has outlined the huge value of the defence sector to UK jobs, businesses and exports.

The report has been published by the Joint Economic Data Hub (JEDHub), a collaborative initiative to improve understanding of the defence sector’s contribution to the UK economy and an important deliverable of the 2021 Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS).

Key stats in the report include:

  • 10,000 – Organisations paid directly by the MOD globally in 2020/21
  • 5,000 – Estimated apprentices employed in the UK defence sector
  • $4.6 billion – Average of annual UK defence exports between 2016-2020

Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin said: “The defence sector is driving prosperity, strengthening the economy, supporting jobs and building skills right across the UK. The first report from the JEDHub provides new insights on the value of the sector – beyond keeping us safe in times of trouble – and I am delighted to see industry and government working together to help us grow our understanding of that vital contribution. I would particularly like to thank the companies in the Defence Growth Partnership and members of their supply chains for their support in this important initiative.”

Based in the UK Defence Solutions Centre, the JEDHub is designed to provide better, consistent and impartial data to help inform decision-making processes. The JEDHub is supported by government, industry and academia. Fresh insights from the report include:

  • 37% – Number of the surveyed jobs supported by overseas sales, showing the contribution of defence exports to sustaining jobs in the UK
  • 4.6% – Increase in graduate and apprenticeships entrants into surveyed companies from 2019 to 2020
  • £45,000 – Average full-time salary for surveyed defence roles, over 16% higher than the UK mean average annual full-time salary in 2020

Chief Executive of ADS, Kevin Craven, said: “Through the collaboration between the Ministry of Defence, UK Defence Solutions Centre and industry, the JEDHub annual economic report published today shows the scale of our defence sector’s activity. Employers in this industry are investing heavily in skills and supporting tens of thousands of high value jobs that are essential to the prosperity of communities in all parts of the UK.”

The defence sector continues to invest in developing highly skilled careers for the future, with the report including an estimate from ADS of 5,000 apprentices in employment in the UK defence sector in 2020. The JEDHub survey also covers recruitment of apprentices and graduate trainees and that figure shows growth of 4.6% from the previous year.

The report also follows the recently refreshed SME Action Plan – designed to further improve engagement with Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, focusing on procurement models that are easier to navigate, a recognition of the role the MOD and its major suppliers play in supporting the whole of the defence supply chain and understanding how best to support innovation and exports for UK suppliers.

The latest data shows the MOD spent £1.1 billion directly with SMEs in 2019/20 and a further £3.4 billion indirectly through the supply chain. This accounts for 21.3% of procurement spend that year and shows procurement spending with SMEs continues to grow, with the intention of procurement spending with SMEs reaching 25% by 2022.

The government says research and development (R&D) is central to the Armed Forces being able to stay ahead of adversaries for combating future threats. The JEDHub report shows the MOD spent £1 billion on R&D in 2019/2020 noting that UK Research and Innovation estimates every £1 of public R&D investment generates around £7 of benefit to the UK. Over the past five years industry’s own private investment in UK R&D has also grown, by 8.9% across 2015-2019 to £464 million.

The government states that the JEDHub’s report is an important deliverable of the 2021 Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, building on the Dunne Report which highlighted the crucial contribution of the defence sector to UK prosperity.

In the coming year, the JEDHub aims to provide more data about the economic contribution at a national, regional, and local level.

Government and educational institutions most vulnerable to cyber attack in 2021

960 640 Stuart O'Brien
According to the data presented by the Atlas VPN team, education and government organizations suffered most cyberattacks in 2021. At the same time, software vendors have experienced the largest growth in attacks compared to 2020. In addition, cybercriminals targeted corporate networks the most with Botnet attacks.
Education and research organizations were the most targeted industry in 2021, with an average of 1,605 weekly cyberattacks. Universities had to suspend classes due to suffered attacks, which impacted students, professors, and other staff members.
The government and military sector rank second with an average of 1,136 weekly cyberattacks. Government agencies hold tons of highly confidential data, which state-sponsored hackers can target to acquire desired information.
Communications organizations experienced an average of 1,079 attacks per week throughout 2021.
On the other hand, software vendors averaged just 536 cyberattacks. However, the average of attacks has significantly grown in the industry by 146% compared to 2020.
Cybersecurity writer at Atlas VPN Vilius Kardelis said: “After shocking large-scale cyberattacks in 2021, businesses must proactively react to the growing risks. Many governments have already expanded their cybersecurity budgets to deal with cyber threats and so should organizations. One successful cyberattack could cause devastating consequences to a company.”
Corporate networks under botnet attacks
Cybercriminals choose different attack methods based on what they are trying to accomplish.
Botnet attacks accounted for 31% of threats against corporate networks in 2021. A botnet is a group of malware-infected internet-connected devices controlled by a single operator.
Info stealers were responsible for 21% of cyberattacks targeted at corporate networks. As the name implies, info stealers are Trojan malware designed to gather data from the system.
Cryptominers accounted for 19% of attacks launched at corporate networks. Cryptocurrency miners are malware that uses a significant amount of GPU and CPU resources, causing your computer to run slower than usual.

Government to strengthen firearms laws for public safety

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The government has set out new wide-ranging proposals to strengthen firearms laws and protect the public as part of a new consultation, including new controls on air weapons, aimed at keeping them out the hands of unsupervised young persons.

It will also close loopholes which currently mean owners of small gun ranges can buy weapons without informing the police or having a licence.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “Our gun laws are among the toughest in the world – we are determined to ensure they stay this way to keep the public safe. These measures will tighten controls on air weapons and minimise the risk of tragic accidents, which have devastated families in the past. They will also close loopholes in our laws to prevent dangerous weapons falling into the wrong hands and ensure that law-abiding shooters can use their firearms safely.”

The new air weapons controls being consulted on will include:

  • Removing exemptions which allow people from the age of 14 to have unsupervised possession of air weapons on private premises
  • Making it an offence to fail to lock up an air weapon and its ammunition separately in the presence of under-18s while not in use
  • Working with industry and retailers to improve the safe keeping of air weapons and advice at the point of sale

Owners of miniature rifle ranges are also planned to be placed under the licensing regime.

Under these proposals, owners will no longer be able to legally buy weapons smaller than .23-inch calibre without having a firearms certificate or informing the police.

The public consultation will also seek views on how to increase security measures around powerful firearms, described as high muzzle energy rifles, and how to strengthen controls on ammunition parts to prevent the unlawful manufacture of full rounds.

This follows new laws announced this month aimed at closing antique firearms loopholes, after evidence showed these were being exploited by criminals.

Seven ammunition types have been removed from the definition of antique firearm, making up to 26,000 guns that use them illegal to own without a firearms licence.

View the full consultation here.

Todd research secures x-ray contract with UK government agency

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Todd Research has been awarded a long-term contract to supply over 200 of its TR15 Smart Scan Cabinet X Ray Scanners for a UK government agency.

Under the terms of the contract, Todd Research will supply, commission, maintain and support new and existing equipment across a multi worldwide estate, delivering hardware, service and training support which will help to advance the security of high profile buildings from terrorist and activist attacks by screening baggage, parcels and letters upon entry.

Todd Research Operations Director, Mark Boshell, said: “We are excited to work with this government agency, being recognised as delivering first class advanced technologies with industry leading image quality on our range of x ray detection security scanners. We will leverage our significant experience in this sector to deliver our first-class customer focused service and support over throughout the life of this contract.”

Todd research says cabinet X-ray scanners provide a compact, cost effective threat detection solution offering protection from powder threats such as Anthrax and Ricin as well as sharps and explosives. The company has extensive experience with cabinet x-ray scanners and offer a range of innovative products to suit individual business requirements.

Places of worship receive security funding boost

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The government has boosted funding for next year’s places of worship protective security to £1.6 million.

It says the move is to reassure communities and safeguard mosques and other places of worship, particularly in light of recent terror incidents.

The figure is double the amount awarded last year. In addition a new £5 million fund will be opened to provide security training.

The funding boost, announced in a written ministerial statement, comes after the terror attack in Christchurch claimed the lives of 50 people and injured 40 more.

Following the incident, police presence was stepped up at mosques across the UK to reassure communities fearful of similar attacks.

The places of worship fund, established in 2016 as part of the government’s hate crime action plan, provides financial support for physical protective security such as fencing, lighting and CCTV. Government previously committed funding of £2.4 million over 3 years.

So far, more than a third of grants under the places of Worship Protective Funding scheme have been awarded to mosques.

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The horrific events in New Zealand are a direct attack on the values of tolerance and freedom of worship that unite us all.

“Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it’s vital we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us.

“I know many Muslim communities are feeling vulnerable and anxious. But they should seek comfort from knowing we are doing everything to tackle hate and extremism.

“That’s why we are doubling next year’s places of worship fund – providing physical protection as well as peace of mind.”

In addition, the government will open a consultation with faith representatives and organisations including the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, Tell MAMA, the Independent Advisory Group and other faith representatives and organisations, on improvements to existing policy to protect faith communities.

To increase uptake in the fund and ensure it reaches those most vulnerable to hate crime, the government says the bidding process will also be simplified so organisations no longer have to prove they have previously experienced a hate crime incident directly.

In addition the government will be streamlining the supplier arrangements for bidders, after which the programme will open for applications.

Places of worship, including mosques, will also benefit from a new £5 million fund over 3 years to provide protective security training to build on some of the positive work already happening in communities.

The government says this is in recognition that physical protective security is only part of the solution, and institutions, their staff and volunteers need to have security understanding to ensure the protective measures work effectively.

Government offers £6m for IoT security solutions

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The UK government is offering up to £6 million in funding to support new ideas that can help keep connected devices and applications safe and secure.

The competition aims to join up the UK’s research base with industry to transfer knowledge and develop new products and services that tackle cyber security in the IoT.

Projects should include artificial intelligence or machine learning and have a clear plan for commercialisation.

They should focus on at least one of the following:

  • operational resilience technologies that can protect and recover data
  • intelligent control systems for industry, commercial and public sector buildings
  • protection of people living in digital homes and their smart systems

Projects could also look at complementary technologies, such as distributed ledger technologies that support the sharing of data across multiple locations, or 5G mobile networks.

Innovate UK has up to £6 million to invest in organisations with ideas that address industry-focused cyber security-related challenges.

The investment forms part of the UK Research and Innovation Strategic Priorities Fund, which supports the highest priorities identified by researchers and businesses.

It is part of a set of measures by UK government to build increased security and protections into digital devices and online services. As well as this programme, this includes an up to £70 million investment through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to tackle digital security by design.

The competition opens on 18 February 2019 and the deadline for applications is at midday on 1 May 2019 – more information can be found here.

Thailand beefs up cyber laws

960 676 Stuart O'Brien

Thailand’s Digital Economy Ministry aims to spend 128.56 million baht ($3.8 million) acquiring software to strengthen the military government’s ability to track online networks and monitor online activity.

According to Reuters, the software will include a ‘social network data analysis system’ which would monitor and map individuals and relationships of over a million online users. Authorities are increasingly targeting social media for violations of a law that makes it a crime to insult or threaten the king, queen heir to the throne.

“The software will sweep and store all data available on social media to be analysed and monitored,” Teerawut Thongpak, director of the ministry’s Digital Service Infrastructure Department, told Reuters.

Thongpak confirmed that the government would post a tender for the software and then consider offers.

Thailand’s military government has arrested numerous people on suspicion of posting material on Facebook and other social media platforms who they see as violating the ‘royal insult law’ since the May 2014 coup, with legal watchdog group iLaw reporting that 59 people have been found guilty of online posts, along with one man this month jailed for 35 years.

Thailand’s military government are also pushing for a cyber security bill, with the aim to increase national security, allowing the state to access data of anyone it suspects, amid growing concern from civil society and business groups that the bill will give the government powers for mass surveillance.

The digital ministry said Thailand had to protect itself against crime and denied the procurement of the software and the legislation were aimed at surveillance.

“This isn’t about violating privacy but protecting the network,” Somsak Khaosuwan, the ministry’s deputy permanent secretary, told Reuters.

Biggest ransomware attack in history cripples NHS

960 428 Stuart O'Brien

The Government and NHS bosses have been called upon to answer questions as to how hospitals were allowed to become victims of a global cyber attack that took down services and caused chaos during the weekend.

Hackers demanding a ransom managed to infiltrate the NHS’ computer systems, forcing operations and appointments to be cancelled, as over 40 hospital trusts became the victims of a ransomware attack, demanding payment to regain access to patient medical records.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at the Helsinki-based cybersecurity company F-Secure, called the attack “the biggest ransomware outbreak in history,” with over 57,000 infections in 99 countries.

The NHS has said that at this point there is no evidence to suggest that the hackers had managed to access patient records.

It is thought that a computer hacking group, going under the name ‘Shadow Brokers’, was partly responsible for the attack after it leaked a hacking tool called ‘Eternal Blue’ online in April, developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) as a weapon to gain access to computers used by terrorists. Other online criminals are thought to have picked up the information online and modified it for their own monetary gains.

Experts have questioned why the health service hadn’t updated its security effectively to prevent the ransomeware from taking hold, with suggestions that 90% of NHS trusts in the UK were using Windows XP, an operating system over 16 years old. Computers using operating software introduced before 2007 were particularly vulnerable. Other computers using newer systems may have failed to apply recent security updates which would have offered better protection.
Writing on his blog, Brad Smith, chief legal officer at Microsoft, said that Governments across the world should treat the attack as a “wake-up call” and feel a “renewed determination for more urgent collective action.” Microsoft had provided free software to protect computers back in March and would be pushing out automatic Windows updates to defend clients from WannaCry ransomware.

“As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems,” Smith said. “Otherwise they’re literally fighting the problems of the present with tools from the past.

“We need the tech sector, customers, and governments to work together to protect against cybersecurity attacks. More action is needed, and it’s needed now.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the attack was “terrible news and a real worry for patients” and urged the Government to be “clear about what’s happened.”

The Prime Minister said: “We are aware that a number of NHS organisations have reported that they have suffered from a ransomware attack. This is not targeted at the NHS, it’s an international attack and a number of countries and organisations have been affected.

“The National Cyber Security Centre is working closely with NHS digital to ensure that they support the organisations concerned and that they protect patient safety. And, we are not aware of any evidence that patient data has been compromised.”

WannaCry, also known as Wanna Decryptor, demands each user affected pay $300 in the internet currency Bitcoin to release and restore files. Thousands of computers across the NHS have been affected, potentially costing taxpayers millions of pounds.

Residents in large cities expected to give up data

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50% of citizens in big cities are predicted to share their personal data to benefit from ‘smart cities’ by 2019.

Analysts at Gartner believe the ‘hyperconnectivity’ of a smart city will mean residents will voluntarily give up information to benefit from government and commercial collaboration.

Data sharing is already constantly happening on a small scale, but it is expected to accelerate and expand due to demand for efficiency and convenience.

Many are already sharing their details with VPAs, or virtual personal assistants, who simplify the process by filling out long forms and paperwork for you.

Governments are already beginning to adapt to the change, and are expected to generate revenue from open data, with 20% of local government organisations expected to benefit from this by 2020.

“Open data portals in cities are not a new thing, but many portals today have limited machine readability and therefore limited business value,” said Gartner research vice president, Bettina Tratz-Ryan, “the city becomes ‘smart’ when the data is collected and governed in a way that can produce valuable real-time streams, rather than just backward-looking statistics or reports.”

Some cities have already begun to make changes to their interface. The Copenhagen Data Exchange is already making moves to connect citizen data, but the process isn’t yet real-time.

The most important part, according to Gartner, is to remodel the data to generate profit. The key to monetisation will be to create an automated and streamlined service in order to organise patterns.

“Users will have a number of options to ‘pay’ for data access depending on the use case,” said Ms. Tratz-Ryan. “A normal citizen may simply participate via data democracy and have free access in return for providing their own data, whereas commercial use may require sharing revenue with the data owner, or buying a license to access an enriched data source.”

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