Cyber crime is getting worse. If the frequent accounts of online extortion and data breaches (you can check out our recent State of Cyber Security report for more info on these) aren’t enough to convince you, you should consider that in some parts of the world, cyber crime actually exceeds “traditional” crime.
Law enforcement has had some success in combating the problem. Arrests have been made. Gangs have been busted. Infrastructure has been taken down.
Cyber security companies like F-Secure play an important role here. Besides protecting people and businesses from online crime with various products and services, the cyber security industry shares threat intelligence with organizations like Europol and the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA). F-Secure and other companies also assist law enforcement agencies conduct their investigations, such as with the FBI’s recent takedown of Avalanche.
Unfortunately, such takedowns are few and far between – certainly not enough to get cyber crime under control.
But on the upside, this leaves lots of space for innovation. And not just in terms of new products.
According to Dr. Janne Järvinen, Director of External R&D Collaborations at F-Secure, innovation is an area where the cyber security industry can work together with smaller companies, research institutions, and other organizations.
“Cooperation helps drive innovation,” says Janne. “New ideas, whether those are realized in the form of companies, technologies, or something else entirely, need support to succeed. And cyber security is an industry that needs to be innovative to stay ahead of threats.”
And Janne isn’t alone in this thinking. Last year, the European Commission created a public-private partnership (PPP) aiming to raise 1.8 billion euros to address various cyber security challenges facing the EU.
Steve Purser, Head of Core Operations for ENISA, says innovative and pragmatic ideas from industry participants will play a vital role in developing the EU cyber security economy.
“There are already innovative examples of collaborations between established cyber security players and research institutions. F-Secure’s collaboration with the University of Helsinki on a Massive Open Online Course is a good example of how much space there is to work together. SMEs, organizations, and even individual researchers should consider how collaborating can help them launch their ideas,” he says.
According to Janne, who gave a presentation on sponsoring/mentoring cyber security SMEs at an ENISA-sponsored event last week in Brussels, there are three main areas where collaborations play a vital role in improving cyber security.
Serving industry-wide needs
Collaborations need to be mutually beneficial for the parties involved. And there are more collaborative opportunities for needs that serve larger numbers of people. The CANVAS consortium is a perfect example of this. CANVAS will create guidelines and recommendations to help governments and institutions balance European ethics and values with security needs. Issues like the encryption debate highlight how far reaching this question of values can be, and collaborations like CANVAS will play an important role in addressing them. “And of course, with the General Data Protection Regulation on the horizon, prioritizing user security and privacy is a requirement. It’s an area where the cyber security community will play a vital role,” says Janne.
Fast tracking business results
Because the cyber security industry is an industry, companies need to produce results. Investments, such as the PPP mentioned above, have to pay off. That means smaller companies, many of whom have great ideas, need to find partners that can help them get ideas off the ground. “Working with a larger company or some other kind of established organization is a great way for SMEs to quickly get good ideas to market. I’ve seen great success stories with the EIT Digital Trusted Cloud Ecosystem I’ve been working with recently. Initiatives like these can function like accelerators for startups and SMEs, and help keep overheads low for new businesses while they work on new products and services,” says Janne.
Developing collaborative frameworks
Things like conferences, hackathons, and research projects are well-established methods to foster collaboration. Janne is currently serving as the Focus Area Director for one such research program – the Need for Speed (N4S) program. According to Janne, the program aims include developing ways to deliver software and new business opportunities faster. It advocates deepening collaborations with customers to get feedback to developers faster. Fast feedback means corrections and improvements can be made quickly, allowing businesses to make better use of the information. “Having different companies, organizations, and researchers work together to establish and share best practices will make products and services better for end users.”