Cyber startups join GCHQ accelerator

Seven startups focusing on online security threats are to join GCHQ’s new Cyber Accelerator in Cheltenham. The accelerator, part of a new government-funded cyber innovation centre, is being delivered by Wayra UK in partnership with the government’s spy centre in an attempt to keep the UK secure online.

GCHQ at Cheltenham, GloucestershireBarely a week goes by without a report of a data security breach of one kind or another – with big business including TalkTalk suffering a loss of business and fines on the back of what was one the most serious data breaches of recent times. Other big UK breaches in 2016 include Tesco and Three.

It’s not just business that is vulnerable to data cyber breaches. Governments too have had to step up, with the scale of hacking in the US unfolding since November’s presidential election being realised and entering the mainstream as scandal.

Here in the UK, chancellor Philip Hammond announced £1.9bn in investment in November to boost our defences against growing online threats, insisting that the money would “allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked”.

Part of this investment will go towards nurturing cybersecurity startups, based in Cheltenham at the government’s new Cyber Innovation Centre near the Governent Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy centre. Cheltenham and nearby Malvern form the heart of the UK’s cyber-security tech cluster.

Wayra UK, running the new accelerator, says the cyber-security sector is now worth £22bn, with £2bn in exports to the UK economy.

Each of the seven startups will receive a £5,000 grant from Wayra, and have access to technological and security expertise, networks, office space and mentoring. The seven will take part in the three-month accelerator programme, helping them scale their businesses, including mentoring, contact with an extensive investor network, office space within the new GCHQ Cyber Accelerator, and access to GCHQ’s world-class personnel and technical expertise.

The accelerator is result of a partnership between GCHQ, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and Wayra UK, part of the Telefónica Open Future_ network.

Digital minister Matt Hancock, whose DCMS department is contributing £50m over five years to the programme, said the accelerator would “help UK entrepreneurs create cutting-edge technology to better protect the nation from cyber attacks and make going online safer for all.”

The Cheltenham centre is the first of two being created as part of the government’s national cyber security programme. A second innovation centre will open in London later this year.

Cyber seven – selected accelerator startups

CounterCraft – counter-intelligence company, protects large organisations with a cybersecurity deception platform, fooling their adversaries with decoy computers, false data and fake identities

Cyberowl – breakthrough early-warning system for cyber attacks, incorporating advanced security analytics and heuristic methods

Cybersmart – platform that automates implementation, certification and compliance with cyber security standards

FutureScaper – collective intelligence platform that provides data visualisations in order to make sense of complex, uncertain, or volatile issues

Spherical Defence – banking API intrusion detection system that uses deep learning to detect hacking attempts by establishing a baseline of normal communication

StatusToday – AI-powered intelligence platform to understand human behavior in the workplace, boosting security against insider attacks and detecting inadvertent mistakes

Verimuchme – digital wallet and exchange platform to secure, verify and re-use personal information.