A THREE-year action plan has been unveiled to help Scotland become a world leader in cyber security.

The strategy, published yesterday by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, said the sector will significantly expand across the globe in the coming years and that there were significant economic opportunities.

It also highlighted the international cyber attack in May last year which caused massive disruption to hospital operations and GP appointments both north and south of the Border. A North Korean man was identified last month as part of a group behind the WannaCry ransomware which affected computers in 150 countries.

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“It has never been more important to be cyber resilient. Digital technologies bring enormous opportunities for Scotland – but also new threats and vulnerabilities,” said the Cyber Resilience Economic Opportunity Action Plan.

“The global cyber attack on 12 May 2017, which affected more than 150 countries worldwide and impacted negatively on the NHS in Scotland and England, underlined the seriousness of the cyber threat.

“The National Cyber Resilience Leaders’ Board (NCRLB) and the Scottish Government believe that Scotland can become a world-leading nation in cyber resilience. Scotland has the capability to develop and supply world-leading research, goods and services at a time where domestic and global demand for cyber resilience is increasing.”

Under the strategy the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise will work with figures in academia and in the private sector to ensure Scotland exploits the opportunities of the increasing demand for products in the sector.

Funding of just over £1 million has been given to Scottish Enterprise to identify ways to develop the sector, including £370,000 for the creation of a cluster management organisation, £500,000 for a Cyber Essentials voucher scheme for small and medium-sized third and private-sector organisations, and £250,000 to stimulate cyber-specific innovation.

Announcing the plan, Mackay said: “The Cyber Resilience Economic Opportunity Action Plan sets out the key practical steps the Scottish Government and key partners will take collectively to support the growth of Scotland’s cyber security firms.

“It aims to encourage the development of innovative cyber security research and deliver world-leading cyber security goods and services.

“As the cyber threat increases, demand for cyber security goods and service increases. There is an opportunity for Scotland’s cyber security businesses to reap the benefits of this growing demand.”

The plan said demand for new cyber security products and services is rising, with the global cyber security market expected to grow to over $144 billion over the next five years.

It added that Scotland had already made a positive start in the field, with a growing number of cyber security companies set up and world-class academic expertise at its universities.

“What is imperative now is that we do everything in our power to create the right conditions for this cyber cluster to grow and thrive, rapidly and sustainably,” it added.

David Smith of Scottish Enterprise said: “I’m looking forward to working with our partners to support the growth of the cyber security cluster in Scotland.”

The strategy said that among the aims of the action plan are to “develop the right market conditions to encourage and support the continued emergence of the cyber security business community in Scotland”.

Other aims include developing the “right academic research capability and capacity to support and grow cyber security business innovation in Scotland; the right cluster management arrangements to ensure the approach is co-ordinated ... and the right brand to help promote Scotland’s cyber security cluster in the UK and internationally, and reflect Scotland’s emerging position as the place to be for researching, developing and supplying cyber security goods and services”.