Cyber crime and the impact of Brexit

Published: 14 June 2016

Having returned from the buzz of InfoSec Europe, the takeaway was clear: cyber crime is truly global and relentless, businesses still find it a challenge to protect themselves, and that the closure of physical borders will not affect even the most amateur hacktivist. 

As the date for the referendum on our EU membership draws closer, the debate has landed on the impact of what ‘Brexit’ would have on our security, the economy and immigration.

Security is particularly poignant for international businesses especially those in Financial Services, Manufacturing and Telecoms. The general consensus for them is to remain ‘In’, given the benefits such as ‘passporting’, supply chain and backhauling into the EU seamlessly, without the impact of further regulation. Cyber Security has been widely discussed by the government and intelligence leaders should there be a Brexit, though, like all the issues being debated, there are still many unknowns. This subject has been made even more pertinent as NATO is likely to designate Cyber as a major ‘domain of War’ at next month’s NATO Summit is Warsaw. 

Should the ‘Out’ vote win, the Cyber industry will continue to innovate and protect, however it is worth considering two themes which are likely to impact their capability: 

EU Partnerships

The UK has invested heavily on Security in the last two years, and has recently launched the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a body which will bring the UK’s Cyber expertise together to help protect the individual, commerce and our national infrastructure. This will no doubt augment the existing partnerships we already have with EU members, facilitating the sharing of data on cyber-attackers’ activities - predominantly financial crime and transnational sabotage (i.e. terrorists’ DNA and other data can be ported across countries in seconds). There is much speculation as to the efficiency of data sharing across the EU, however these relationships must only be an advantage to protecting UK business operations.

To what extent will these partnerships be affected by a Brexit? 

It is assumed regulation for data sharing will change. This will impact our national crime agencies’ processes and operations, making the UK less safe due to time taken to transition. Also, in the event the UK will be able to close its borders, the monitoring of terrorist movement into the country may improve, however cyber crime will not be impacted, as it’s immune to physical border closures.

Hiring niche Cyber talent

In 2015, cyber security was added to the UK skills shortage register. This allows cyber talent from outside the EU to apply for a working visa. It is highly likely that these regulations will extend to the EU, should a Brexit happen.

Will Brexit have an impact on companies recruiting the requisite talent to stay safe?

Not essentially in the long-term. The immediate impact however will result in companies having to understand and adapt to new visa ramifications, which will delay hiring processes: not ideal as demand continues to outstrip supply.

To overcome such challenges, companies are starting to market ‘Cyber’ as a primary career choice. Many are already transitioning top IT talent to become Cyber experts: growing one’s own is a more viable strategy in the short-term and this trend is likely to continue.

On balance, should the nation vote ‘In’, the Cyber Security sector will be able to continue its progressive intent to detect, prevent and monitor attacks and continue to utilise the current environment in which to hire expert talent, though be it still challenging. There is no doubt the industry will take a retrograde step initially should Brexit happen. 

Whatever the vote, there will continue to be an essential requirement for senior leaders that truly understand the commercial importance of cyber security, as well as the technical detail. In a market where demand outstrips supply, working with headhunters who specialise in recruiting difficult to find and niche Cyber related positions could be vital.

James Blackwood is a specialist in recruiting leadership roles within the Cyber Security and Defence sectors.

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