Security cleared jobs news roundup: August

Published on: 1 Sep 2021
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We're rounding up some of the biggest security cleared stories of the past few weeks. In August, the MoD signed a new contract to improve military communications, while ethical hackers sought to identify security vulnerabilities at the department and the UK's nuclear sector moved a step closer to developing smaller, cheaper reactors.

MoD awards contract for space communications

A new contract for the development of satellites to support UK military communications has been awarded to a Hampshire-based firm by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

To be constructed by In-Space Missions, the Titania satellite is expected to be launched into orbit in 2023. It will use direct-to-earth free-space optical communications technology to support high-bandwidth battlefield operations by transferring large volumes of data, with a low risk of detection or interception.

Dstl's space programme manager Dr Mike O'Callaghan said: "The Titania space mission will accelerate the development and adoption of space-based optical communications, allowing our Armed Forces the ability to operate in an increasingly contested environment."
    
Ethical hackers help strengthen UK's cyber security

A new bug bounty programme organised by the MoD is aiming to improve the cyber security of the department's networks and devices with the help of a team of ethical hackers.

Developed in collaboration with US organisation HackerOne, a 30-day challenge saw 26 cyber security experts look for and fix vulnerabilities in the MoD's cyber systems within a controlled environment. Participants praised the MoD for the openness it offered and its willingness to embrace new tools and capabilities to secure cyber systems.

Minister for the armed forces James Heappey said bug bounty programmes are an "exciting new capability" for the MoD. He added: "Our cyber teams are collaborating with the ethical hacking community to identify and fix vulnerabilities in our systems, ensuring we’re more resilient and better protected. This work will contribute to better cyber and information security for the UK."
    
Government and police warned over security vulnerabilities

The UK government and several police forces around the UK may need to improve their cyber defences after key elements of their networks were identified as being exposed to a serious security vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange servers, which are used by many public sector bodies to manage their emails.

It was reported that although a patch to close the loophole - which could enable a hacker to remotely execute code on an email server without needing to enter a password - has been available for several months, 50 per cent of UK servers have yet to be updated. These include those running on the government's gov.uk domain, as well as the police.uk domain used by forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This may highlight the importance of having adequate IT resources in these public sector organisations to manage these activities, as one security expert described the vulnerability as "as serious as they come". However, the National Cyber Security Centre noted that so far, it has not seen any evidence of UK organisations being compromised.     

Plans for small-scale nuclear reactors move forward 

Proposals to redevelop nuclear power plants in Wales through the use of new, small-scale reactors have moved forward this month after the Welsh government selected a leading UK civil nuclear executive to head up a scheme at Trawsfynydd in the north of the country.

The plans call for the development of new modular reactors that can be constructed in factories and then assembled on-site, which proponents say will reduce the cost and complexity of large nuclear power stations.

Rolls-Royce is among the firms looking to secure government approval for the design, which could lead to the installation of up to 16 small modular reactors at existing and former nuclear sites in the UK. The company said it is "highly likely" that Trawsfynydd, which closed in 1991 and was one of the UK's first nuclear plants, would house the first such reactor.