Defence & security focus: managing challenges of Chinese technology ‘one of the most important issues of our time’ says cyber security chief

Written by Ciaran Martin on 24 April 2019 in Feature

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Here, CSW hears from National Cyber Security Centre chief Ciaran Martin

The National Cyber Security Centre headquarters in London. Photo: PA

What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

Our challenge is making the UK the hardest target possible for malicious actors, be they criminals, activists or nation-states. Staying abreast of the evolving threat is definitely our biggest challenge. Following this would be making sure the public, businesses and other government departments are aware of, and taking steps to counter, the threat.

Helping to achieve this is the NCSC’s incident management team which has dealt with more than 550 incidents in the last 12 months. I think that keeping on top of that level of activity is an amazing feat.

“We also have a role in helping the government manage the strategic challenges of Chinese technology. This is one of the most important issues of our time”

How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?

We’ve made a global impact. More than 50 countries have been to see us to try to engage in partnership with us. Cyber security is the ultimate global issue. We are part of the historic, hugely important Five Eyes alliance with the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Within Europe, whatever else happens, we’re totally committed to European cyber security. And we have a really receptive group of partners in Europe.

We also have a role in helping the government manage the strategic challenges of Chinese technology now and in the future. This is one of the most important issues of our time.

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

I’m really excited this year about our initiatives to make the individual more aware and better-equipped to protect themselves and recognise when they are at risk. The best way of achieving that is by working with other government departments on strategic communications and initiatives. That way, we can engage the public and promote simple measures that people can adopt to stay secure online.

Additionally, the Top Tips for Staff launch will encourage employees in businesses large and small to do their part in keeping themselves, their businesses and – by extension – the UK safe from malicious actors (nation-state or criminal).

What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?

We formed the NCSC in 2016. When we did, we didn’t know what the role would look like in 20 years’ time and I am not sure I can look that far ahead even now. What I can say is this: The NCSC was formed to bring together the community working in cyber-security. It is an agile, pioneering organisation and unsurprisingly there are many nations looking to replicate our model. Looking into the future, I expect my role will be charged with making sure that we are continually innovating and remaining the world-leader in making the UK the safest place to live and work online.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

It depends where I am. The only bad thing about this job is I have to spend a lot of time away from home. So when I get home I just want to enjoy family time. When I am away I try to make sure I get out running either at the start or the end of the day. Like many people I find running as much of a mental health benefit as a physical one.

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Ciaran Martin
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Ciaran Martin is the chief executive officer of the National Cyber Security Centre

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