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Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox hires former spy chief to fight cyber crime

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The former boss of GCHQ who resigned suddenly from the British spy agency earlier this year has resurfaced in the insurance sector with a mandate to spot new cyber crime techniques.

Robert Hannigan, who set up the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) during his two-and-a-half year stint at the intelligence agency, has been hired by Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox to advise on emerging cyber threats and new criminal techniques.

The high-profile appointment follows a string of major cyber security breaches that have resulted in rising demand for cyber insurance. Insurers are fighting against banks and other financial institutions to hire those with cyber expertise as hackers grow increasingly sophisticated and find fresh ways to break the system.

“The risks that cyber criminals pose, both to businesses and individuals in the UK, are significant and sophisticated,” Mr Hannigan warned, adding that insurers must “evolve their understanding and defence against cyber crime”.

His resignation from GCHQ in January came as a surprise, with the agency saying at the time that he left his post for “personal reasons” and was not sacked.

He took on the job in November 2014, following former CIA employee Edward Snowden’s leaks of GCHQ techniques, and was credited with taking a more open and transparent approach to the role while preparing the UK for an era of cyber challenges. He also bought an element of fun to the job by challenging the public to solve hard puzzles at Christmas.

His move to Hiscox, which began writing cyber insurance in the late nineties, is not entirely surprising given the demands on the industry and lack of skilled workers available outside the government. His predecessor Sir Iain Lobban, who was in the role for six years, went on to join insurance broking and risk management firm Marsh as a senior adviser on cyber risk.

 TheCityUK, the body for Britain’s finance sector, told The Telegraphearlier this year that it wants to work with the NCSC to make sure some of the people being trained in cyber security go into the City. It called for cyber schools in all cities with a big financial services presence so that those trained up do not all go and work at GCHQ.

“We know that industry is crying out for these skills in volume; not just a hand-picked elite needed to work at GCHQ to ensure national security, but an entire generation of skilled people to protect British industry,” said Marcus Scott, the group’s chief financial officer.

Mr Hannigan’s role at Hiscox, a new one for the insurer, will be reviewed at the end of the year. The company has over 50 staff in its cyber division and is on track to write over $100m of cyber insurance this year.

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