Image: Nova South, home to the National Cyber Security Centre headquarters in Victoria, London. Credit:

UK cyber agency announces Ollie Whitehouse as its first ever CTO

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has hired Ollie Whitehouse as the agency’s first Chief Technology Officer. He will start in late October at the agency, which is a part of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Whitehouse, who has 27 years experience working in the industry, is widely viewed as a popular and credible figure throughout the U.K. cybersecurity community. He most recently worked as the Group CTO for the information assurance business NCC Group.

He has been an independent advisor to the NCSC’s Research Advisory Panel since 2013, and a contributor to numerous other government research panels, including for the Home Office and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

While Whitehouse is not a direct replacement for the NCSC’s former technical director, Ian Levy — who joined Amazon last year — as the CTO he will fill some of Levy’s duties on the agency’s management board, including maintaining its “status as the National Technical Authority for cyber security.”

The CTO will also be “influential in tackling the challenges of tomorrow,” from “diversifying the pipeline of expert talent, to anticipating technological capabilities, to ensuring the NCSC remains at the forefront of digital developments,” according to the NCSC.

As a senior figure working in the technology industry, Whitehouse’s appointment marks a coup for the British public sector, which has come under criticism for its low cybersecurity salaries compared to similar roles in the private sector.

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Speaking at the CyberUK conference in Belfast earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden referenced this criticism, saying “a cyber specialist knows they can earn five to seven times, if not more, for the same role in the private sector.”

He said he was “examining what more we can do to improve salaries and other parts of our offer, so that we can continue to attract the very best cyber experts into the civil service.”

Speaking to Recorded Future News about the challenges that GCHQ faces when it comes to recruitment, the NCSC’s founding chief executive, Ciaran Martin, said: “You can't compete with the private sector salaries. It would be ridiculous, it would be a national scandal, if people thought the taxpayer was funding those types of salaries, particularly at a time like this.”

But despite the challenges of recruitment and retention, Martin said there are certainly thousands of men and women at GCHQ who are highly qualified and highly motivated by the importance of their job. “The fact is that some of the government work is inherently interesting.”

NCSC’s chief executive, Lindy Cameron, said: “We’re delighted that Ollie will be joining the NCSC as our new Chief Technology Officer. He will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our mission making the UK the safest place to live and work online at a time when the pace of technological change has never been more evident.”

Whitehouse said he was honored to be starting in the role and looking forward to “supporting its world class talent in their critical work keeping the UK safe online.”

“Having worked closely with the NCSC since its inception, I know how crucial its mission is and I am eager to contribute to our national security by addressing the collective challenges we face in maintaining our edge in cyberspace.”

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.