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What does Brexit mean for cybersecurity?

Brexit and cybersecurity

Brexit headlines have been coming thick and fast for some months now. Now that the dust has settled on the referendum result, the effects of leaving the European Union on cybersecurity have become a little clearer. Here’s our summary of the latest predictions.

At first, it did not seem like the direct effects of Britain’s exit from the EU would be too significant for the cybersecurity industry. In fact, InfoSecurity Europe conducted a poll on 278 IT professionals this year, of whom 64% believed that there would be little or no change in the industry as a consequence of Brexit. Since then, evidence has suggested that the negative effects of Brexit on other areas of British life could have a knock-on effect in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity, by its very nature, is a rapidly evolving industry. Firms not only need to work to tackle new threats as they emerge, but also pre-empt and protect from threats before they are even conceived. This necessitates a high degree of research, the funding for which has been severely threatened by Brexit. It is estimated that more than a third of funding for research in higher education comes from the EU, so without this much-needed cash injection, academics may not be able to carry out the research which propels development in cybersecurity technology.

Britain triggers Article 50 to combat cyber-terrorism

Tackling cybercrime across Europe may also become more difficult once Britain triggers Article 50 and officially commences the process of leaving the EU. Currently, the UK and other EU nations have a data sharing agreement which makes fighting online crime a much simpler process. It is possible that after the UK formally leaves the EU, this agreement will be null and void and put current cybersecurity operations at risk. If a threat originates within the EU, for example, it is now relatively easy for Britain to access the data needed to trace the threat to its source. In future, Britain may have to enter into complicated agreements with individual nations which could hinder operations.

Post-Brexit – The positive outlook on the IT industry

It is also possible that Brexit will have some positive effects on individuals working in the IT and cybersecurity industries. Outsourcing of IT is common, but leaving the EU may encourage British companies to outsource to home-grown IT support companies such as Syntax Integration instead of cheaper European arms. Foreign outsourcing has always been seen as a move which puts British jobs at risk, but as trade with the EU is likely to become more difficult, British companies will find investing locally much more attractive.

There is no shortage of IT support companies in the UK, with a large number operating in almost every city in the country. Companies in London may look to a company such as Syntax IT Support London, which has local offices and knowledge that can reassure business owners.

Having said this, economic uncertainty means that British cyber security firms may lose out on the wealth of investment opportunities outside the UK. Businesses looking to expand into or across the European Union are unlikely to look to Britain as its position on the world stage is at risk. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, the pound sterling hit record lows not seen since the 1980s, with 1 GBP briefly equating to 1 USD.

Even though the sterling has risen since then, the country is still at risk of recession especially as the formal negotiations to leave the EU have not yet begun. There has also been talk in recent weeks of negative interest rates, with RBS and NatWest recently writing to their business customers to inform them that they may be charged for keeping money in their accounts. Much of this is speculation and seems unlikely, but it is the uncertainty and even fear that puts businesses off investing in Britain.

Until the process of leaving the EU is complete, there can be no definite assertions made about how cybersecurity and any other industries will be affected. For now, the best thing for the industry would be for the government to announce concrete plans which would dispel any fears held by local and foreign investors alike.

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