What is infrastructure security in cloud computing?

Society’s pivot towards cloud computing environments for work and personal use has occurred at pace over recent years. With work migrating to the cloud and businesses adopting a cloud-first approach to wider operations more generally, our reliance on cloud applications grows by the day.

Business leaders and computer science specialists must ensure that adequate cloud computing security is prioritised amid these rapid technological advances and transitions. It’s a concern for many, with 75% of businesses and 68% of cybersecurity experts pinpointing misconfigured cloud infrastructure as the top security threat.

What is cloud infrastructure security?

The aim of cloud infrastructure security is to protect cloud-based assets from cybersecurity threats. There are a number of challenges presented by modern cloud computing – from regulatory demands to inconsistent and patchy security policies – which cloud security frameworks make it simpler and easier to address.

Despite this, traditional tools and methods of network security still create critical gaps and vulnerabilities that hackers can leverage. Some of the key security challenges and risks associated with cloud networks include:

  •         data breaches
  •         visibility
  •         migration of dynamic workloads
  •         misconfigurations
  •         unsecured APIs
  •         access control/unauthorised access
  •         securing the control plane
  •         security compliance and auditing
  •         end user error and lack of security awareness.

The nature of cloud systems is that they are dynamic; cloud resources can be particularly short-lived, with many being created and deleted multiple times each day. As a result, each individual ‘building block’ in a cloud network must be robustly and systematically secured – though it is made more complicated by working practice shifts such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and remote working.

Cloud data is primarily stored in public cloud and private clouds, although other cloud strategies – such as multi-cloud and hybrid cloud – are also popular. There are four main cloud computing service models: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and serverless.

What are the components of cloud infrastructure security?

There are at least seven basic components that make up a typical cloud environment and underpin infrastructure security.earning the best practices of each can help to secure each individual element against security threats:

  1. User accounts. User service accounts provide access to certain areas of critical cloud infrastructure.If compromised, hackers can gain access to sensitive data across the cloud network. These new accounts often feature default settings with little or no authentication processes. Identity and access management (IAC) tools can help to reinforce security by tightly controlling account access and authentication, cloud configuration monitoring can auto-detect unsecured accounts, and account usage as a whole can be monitored to detect real-time unusual activity.
  2. Servers. While cloud settings are rooted in virtualisation, physical hardware (including on-premises physical servers, load balancers, routers and storage devices) is still required behind the scenes, in different geographical locations. Maximising server security relies on controlling inbound and outbound communications – as well as encrypting communications – using SSH keys, and minimising access privileges.
  3. Storage systems. Abstracted storage systems and virtualised resources can use automation for scaling and provisioning requirements. Common security measures related to cloud storage include removing unused data, blocking access where it is not required, classifying data by its sensitivity, using identity and access management (IAM) systems, identifying and tracking connected devices, and using cloud data loss prevention (DLP) tools.
  4. Networks. Cloud services and systems can make use of public networks and virtual private networks (VPNs) – known as a VNet in Azure and a VPC in Amazon. Best practices for networks include using security groups and Network Access Control Lists (ACL) to limit network access, establishing firewalls to detect malware and other suspicious activity, and deploying cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools.
  5. Hypervisors. All cloud systems are based on hypervisors, making it possible to run multiple virtual machines with separate operating systems. For organisations using private cloud systems, securing hypervisors is a critical responsibility. This means hardening, patching, isolating and physically securing any machines that use hypervisors to data centers. Additionally, securing hardware caches, monitoring development and testing environments and controlling access is required.
  6. Databases. Cloud databases – together with the applications and cloud servers they are linked with – are vulnerable to data breaches as they are easily exposed to public networks. Any database security strategy should include limiting network access, enabling database security policies, locking down permissions, ensuring end user device security, and hardening configuration and instances.
  7. Kubernetes. All cloud computing layers need to have protective defences in place. Kubernetes, an open-source system that supports containerised applications, states that there are four key areas where security controls must be in place: code, containers, clusters and cloud.

If not properly configured and reinforced by best practice, each component can present an attack surface for cybercriminals to target.

What’s next for cloud infrastructure security?

If there’s one certainty in the cloud security space, it’s that its constant evolution demands that business leaders and providers stay on top of developing trends and threats.

Experts predict an increasing focus on the use of cloud forensics and incident response, allowing cybersecurity specialists greater visibility over, and faster response to, multi-cloud, serverless and container-based threats. Any tools and strategies that support process automation and simplification are also welcomed, and considered fundamental in addressing skills gaps in the digital security space and reducing cloud complexity. Throughout this evolution and beyond, security teams must prioritise proactive vigilance in order to effectively protect systems and assets, and manage use and scalability sustainably and securely.

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What is IoT security?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to ‘the concept of connecting any device that has an on/off switch to the Internet and other connected devices’. This huge wireless network of internet-connected devices and people enables data collection and sharing on a vast, global scale, encompassing both how electronic devices are used and how users interact with environments. The IoT includes smart devices – the common, physical objects connected within the IoT ecosystem via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth – such as smart watches, smartphones, smart vehicles and smart home appliances.

However, while IoT provides convenience and accessibility on a colossal scale, it also brings with it a great number of risks. Without sufficient protection, IoT devices that are allowed to connect to the internet can be susceptible to various critical vulnerabilities and exploitations – a fact businesses and service providers must be aware of if they are to protect against security risks.

What is IoT security and why is it important?

The ever-expanding number of pathways between IoT systems and devices creates a greater capacity for ‘threat actors’, such as cybercriminals and hackers, to intercept and interfere with digital technologies. Cyberattacks are a matter of national and international security, as businesses and individuals who fall victim to cybercrime risk having their identities, money, data or other properties stolen.

Issues of cybersecurity and cybercrime continue to pose critical threats to organisations and individuals across the world, as recent statistics illustrate.

  • The average cost of a single ransomware attack is $1.85 million – and cybercrime will cost companies worldwide an estimated $10.5 trillion by 2025.
  • The rate of detection or prosecution of cybercriminals is as low as 0.05%.
  • 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses, but only 14% are sufficiently prepared to defend themselves.

Such attacks have the potential to disrupt usual business operations, cause damage to important assets and infrastructure, lead to extortion, and demand a huge amount of budget and resources to remedy – resources many businesses simply do not have.

IoT security, therefore, refers to the broad range of strategies, protocols, techniques and actions used to mitigate the increasing risk of threats all modern businesses face. It aims to secure IoT devices and connected networks and operating systems from threats and breaches by protecting, identifying and monitoring risks across all attack surfaces, as well as assisting to resolve security weaknesses.

What are the main security issues facing IoT systems?

According to the National Crime Agency, the most common attack types include: hacking, phishing, malicious software and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Security threats are as numerous as they are creative, and their exact nature can vary across industries and the types of device, use cases and systems under threat. For example, the healthcare sector relies on IoT devices that feature some of the highest share of security issues, such as medical imaging systems, patient monitoring systems, and medical device gateways. Other key contenders across other industries include energy management devices, IP phones, consumer electronics, printers and security cameras.

The most common IoT security threats can be divided into three main categories.

  1. Exploits, accounting for 41% of threats: examples include network scans, remote code executions, command injections, buffer overflows, SQL injections and zero-days.
  2. Malware, accounting for 33% of threats: examples include worms, ransomware, backdoor trojans and botnets (such as Mirai).
  3. User practice, accounting for 26% of threats: examples include password vulnerabilities, phishing and cryptojacking.

In practice, these threats are often due to:

  • weak, guessable or hardcoded passwords
  • insecure network services
  • insecure ecosystem interfaces
  • lack of secure update mechanisms
  • use of insecure or outdated components
  • insufficient privacy protection
  • insecure data transfer and storage
  • lack of device management
  • insecure default passwords and settings
  • lack of physical hardening.

Fortunately, there are a whole host of real-time security measures organisations can adopt and implement to protect their network-connected systems, assets and workforces.

What are the most important IoT security solutions?

IoT security is often described as ‘the backbone of the internet’. Threats, challenges and IoT attacks are real and require the immediate attention of all businesses. IoT system vulnerabilities and threats keep mutating – so our security solutions must do the same.

If effective and lasting solutions to security threats are to be developed and implemented, organisations must take into account the entire IoT security lifecycle: understand IoT assets, assess IoT risks, apply risk reduction policies, prevent known threats, and detect and respond to unknown threats.

With this knowledge and insight in place, cybersecurity professionals can begin rolling out IoT security best practices including:

  • tracking and managing all devices
  • conducting patching and remediation efforts
  • updating passwords and credentials
  • using up-to-date encryption protocols
  • conducting penetration testing and evaluation
  • understanding the endpoints
  • ensuring segmentation of networks
  • enabling multi-factor authentication.

These are just some of the many methods that can reinforce IoT device security. Using specialist software and tools, such as Microsoft Defender for IoT, is another option organisations can also invest in for more comprehensive coverage.

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Understanding the UK’s central government

The United Kingdom operates under a governance system that includes both a central government and devolved governments. While the devolved governments – Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – have their own areas of authority, the central government plays a crucial role in high-level decision-making in England and across the entirety of the United Kingdom. 

What is the central government of the UK?

The central government of the United Kingdom is the overarching authority responsible for managing the nation’s affairs as a whole. It is based primarily in Westminster, London, where key governmental functions are carried out.

The central government includes:

There are also two additional public sector categories in the UK.

  • Local government includes regional authorities, local authorities and parish councils, and delivers local services.
  • Public corporations are managed by either the central government, a regional government, a local authority or a parish council.

The central government, meanwhile, works with devolved governments, local governments, and public corporations to ensure the well-being of the entire UK population.

Who controls the UK’s central government?

The UK’s central government is managed by the elected representatives of the people.

The ultimate authority rests with the UK Parliament, which consists of two houses.

  1. House of Commons
  2. House of Lords

Members of Parliament (MPs) from different political parties are elected by the public to the House of Commons, and they play a vital role in scrutinising and enacting legislation.

The Prime Minister, who is the head of the UK government and appoints ministers to its Cabinet, is typically the leader of the political party commanding a majority in the House of Commons.

What does the UK’s central government do?

The central government in the UK manages a number of critical tasks, including:

  • setting, implementing and administering government policy
  • enacting laws and legislation
  • managing the economy
  • overseeing national security
  • delivering essential government services in areas such as health and social care, education, transportation, defence, justice and the environment
  • safeguarding the nation’s values and principles.

The main responsibilities of the UK’s central government

Central government has a number of responsibilities, though there are four main areas of primary importance.

Governance and decision-making 

Central government represents the interests of the entire United Kingdom, overseeing the functioning of local government authorities and ensuring consistency in the application of policies and regulations. It also makes high-level decisions in international affairs, such as negotiating treaties and maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries.

Service provision

The central government is responsible for providing essential public services. This includes healthcare through the National Health Service (NHS) in England, education through the Department for Education (DfE), law enforcement through the Home Office, and pensions through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

Civil administration

The central government employs the UK’s Civil Service – the impartial body which supports the day-to-day operations of government departments and implements their policies.

Policy work 

The central government develops policies aimed at addressing various challenges faced by the nation, and aims to enhance the UK’s quality of life, its social, economic, and environmental outlook, and so on. This policy work begins by assessing the needs of the country and its citizens and then building strategies that address these needs. Once policies are established, the government then delivers their implementation through legislative and executive actions.

Examples of central government in the UK

The Cabinet Office

The Cabinet Office is an important arm of the UK’s central government, created to support the Prime Minister as well as the effective running of government.

According to the Cabinet Office, its responsibilities are varied, including:

  • developing, coordinating, and implementing policies
  • supporting the National Security Council and the Joint Intelligence Organisation
  • coordinating the government’s response to crises and managing the UK’s cyber security
  • finding efficiencies through innovation, procurement and project management, and new ways to deliver services
  • making government more transparent
  • managing the Civil Service
  • overseeing political and constitutional reform.

The Cabinet Office also oversees the Government Digital Service team, which manages the gov.uk public information website. 

The Home Office

The UK’s Home Office is a ministerial department tasked with keeping its citizens safe and the country secure. It oversees:

  • immigration and passports
  • drugs policy
  • reducing and preventing crime
  • fire prevention and rescue
  • counter-terrorism measures
  • police services.

According to the Home Office, the department’s main priorities as of June 2023 are:

  • cutting crime, including cyber-crime and serious and organised crime
  • managing civil emergencies
  • protecting vulnerable people and communities
  • reducing terrorism
  • controlling migration
  • providing public services and contributing to prosperity
  • maximising opportunities arising as a result of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)

The Department for Health and Social Care is responsible for developing and implementing policies around health and social care services across England. It also supports the three devolved nations to a lesser degree, with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each having their own health services.

To achieve its aims, the DHSC collaborates with healthcare professionals, county councils and other local government bodies, health researchers and other stakeholders to ensure the effective delivery of healthcare across the population.

The DHSC’s focus includes improving access to quality healthcare, addressing health inequalities and advancing the government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions in the health and social care sector.

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What is network security?

Network security is the term used for the collection of policies, practices, and technologies that are used to protect computer networks – and the data they transmit – from unauthorised access, misuse or disruption.

Network security works to secure both the physical and virtual components of a network – including routers, servers, gateways, wireless networks, and other devices connected to the network infrastructure – from threats and breaches.

In an interconnected world where information flows seamlessly between devices and networks, network security has become a fundamental tool for protecting against cyber threats.

Why is network security important?

Network security is one of the most effective tools available in the fight against hackers and other cybercriminals. And, with technology central to most of our daily activity, network security is now a critical consideration in all digital development. Network security works to:

  • Protect sensitive data. Network security safeguards sensitive information such as financial data, personal records or intellectual property from unauthorised access and disclosure, ensuring privacy and confidentiality.
  • Mitigate financial loss. Effective network security measures help prevent financial losses – including penalties and fines – resulting from data breaches. These measures can also prevent the financial losses that arise from disruptions to business activities, operations, or services.
  • Preserve organisational reputation and trust. A breach in network security can severely damage an organisation’s reputation, eroding trust among customers and stakeholders.
  • Ensure regulatory compliance. Many industries have specific regulations regarding data protection and security. Implementing network security measures helps organisations comply with these regulations and avoid legal consequences.
  • Maintain business continuity. Network security measures such as backups and disaster recovery plans can ensure the continuity of operations and minimise downtime in the face of security incidents.

Common threats to network security

Network security systems may face a range of threats and cyber attacks that aim to exploit vulnerabilities, gain access to networks and data or disrupt network operations.

Understanding these threats is the first step towards implementing effective network security measures.

Common threats include:

  • Phishing. Phishing attacks trick users into revealing sensitive information such as login credentials or financial details by posing as legitimate entities via email or deceptive websites.
  • Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). DoS and DDoS attacks overwhelm network resources, rendering services inaccessible and causing widespread disruption. These are targeted attacks that flood a system with traffic in an effort to crash it and make it inaccessible to legitimate users.
  • Malware. Malicious software including viruses, worms, and ransomware, can infiltrate systems and compromise network security, leading to data breaches and system damage.
  • Unauthorised access. Hackers can exploit weak access controls or vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised entry into networks, potentially compromising sensitive data or launching further attacks.

Common network security measures

There are many types of network security measures, and network security systems will typically employ a variety of them to fortify defenses and mitigate potential risks. 

  • Firewalls. Firewalls act as gatekeepers within a network. They monitor and filter incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predefined security rules, prevent unauthorised access to the network and protect it against potential threats.
  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS). Intrusion detection systems alert organisations when suspicious activity is detected within a network.
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS). Intrusion prevention systems work to block malicious activity.
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs). VPNs establish secure, encrypted connections over public networks, ensuring confidentiality and privacy for remote access and communication.
  • Antivirus and anti-malware software. These tools detect, prevent, and remove malicious software such as viruses, Trojans, spyware, ransomware and other threats to network security.
  • Data loss prevention (DLP) tools. DLP solutions monitor and control sensitive information. In doing so, they can prevent unauthorised disclosure, ensure regulatory or legal compliance, and minimise data breach incidents. 
  • Network access controls. Network access is an important area of network security. It encourages strong authentication mechanisms such as passwords, multi-factor authentication or biometrics to verify an authorised user’s identity and grant appropriate access privileges within the network.
  • Security policies. Comprehensive security policies outline important areas of internal network security such as guidelines for acceptable use, data handling, email security, password management and security awareness training for employees.
  • Network segmentation. Network segmentation divides networks into isolated segments. Doing so limits the potential impact of a security breach because it prevents unauthorised movement within the wider network.
  • Endpoint security. Endpoint security ensures that network endpoints such as computers, laptops and mobile devices have up-to-date antivirus software, regular patches and secure configurations.
  • Application security. Application security works to safeguard individual organisational apps for providers.
  • Encryption. Encryption protects sensitive data from unauthorised interception and maintains its confidentiality during transit and storage.
  • Behavioural analytics. Behavioural analytics are a proactive network security measure. They assess network traffic and user behaviour to detect anomalies and potential security threats, ensuring that issues are identified and addressed as soon as possible. 

The future of network security

As cyber threats continue to evolve, so too must the technologies, processes and network security solutions that network administrators use to address them. This includes:

  • Regularly updating security controls.
  • Staying informed about emerging vulnerabilities and best practices.
  • Harnessing new technologies, such as artificial intelligence-powered security information and event management (SIEM), as they become available.

Network security must continue to advance in line with new and emerging cyber security threats. This means keeping up with and using the latest technologies such as those in artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and automation, so those responsible for information systems are well prepared to manage threats of the future.

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How does social structure affect international business?

The number of companies operating internationally is increasing, with many UK businesses setting their sights on global trade despite an uncertain economic outlook. Airwallex – a financial technology platform that supports businesses with their expansion efforts – reports that 70% of UK small-medium enterprises (SMEs) plan to scale internationally in 2023.

Globalisation has given rise to international trade and global business partnerships, connecting companies and consumers across geographical, political, social, economic and cultural boundaries. Those operating in our global marketplace – with its vast web of multinational stakeholders, including employees, supply chain contacts and policymakers, customers, business partners and investors – must understand that society and culture has an impact on every aspect of overseas business.

How does social structure affect business?

How organisations construct, coordinate and engage with their workforces, business activities and wider marketplaces is closely linked to social structure. The impacts can be far-reaching, from how they interact with their environments to the values that drive and shape their work.

The social structures and contexts businesses operate within can have significant impact – whether positive, negative or neutral – on a host of aspects.

  • Cohesion – how do businesses maintain identity and structure while balancing internal and external pressures?
  • Adaptation – how do businesses innovate and integrate in response to changing environments?
  • Hierarchy and power relations – how do businesses handle questions of autonomy, power management, resource allocation, negotiation and organisational models?
  • Conflict – how do businesses seek to address organisational blockages, poor productivity, insecurity, high stress levels, labour disputes or absenteeism?

Decision-making across each of these axes has subsequent impacts on any number of factors, such as social and identity links between employers and employees, communication and communication tools, and the flow of information.

Business leaders and managers must examine and reflect on these – and other – critical issues. Awareness of social structures and how they relate to organisational management is one aspect, but any awareness should be followed up by considered, responsible solutions, where required.

And that’s before the global business dimension is added to the mix.

Why do social factors and structures matter in international business?

The individual social structures and contexts of different demographics, communities, countries and nations all feed into the complex, interconnected space of global business and operations. They play a key role in shaping both macro and micro business practices: how the organisation is managed, what goods and services are produced, how they will be sold, what managerial and operational practices are established and, ultimately, how successful an international venture will be.

Businesses with international and multinational interdependencies must consider the predominant attitudes, values and beliefs of the countries in which they operate if they are to succeed in their business goals and avoid issues and tensions.

Sociocultural factors to be mindful of include:

  • culture
  • language
  • religion
  • education level
  • customer preferences
  • societal attitudes

Sociocultural differences and values impact every aspect of business practice. How do employees like to be managed? Is entrepreneurship encouraged? Are business ethics and social responsibility prioritised? What competencies are valued and rewarded? How is organisational social change received?

If they are to remove barriers to success, operational ease, as well as workplace cohesion and profit, leaders must remain cognisant of these factors. Balancing different social structures and values will support organisations to:

  • create stability, order and a framework in which all stakeholders can interact, cooperate and co-exist
  • understand the complex relationships between different social cultures and structures and their roles
  • predict the behaviours and responses of others
  • share information and resources for collective benefit
  • provide laws, regulations and social norms which support desired behaviours and attitudes
  • establish a sense of identity, belonging, unity and purpose.

This last point is particularly important, as Mark Granovetter – an American sociologist and professor, dubbed the ‘father of social network analysis’ – demonstrates in his Strength of Weak Ties theory. The theory posits that ‘weak ties’, such as those that exist between acquaintances (‘strong ties’, alternatively, are those between close friends) can help to form a bridge between clusters of people – such as disparate groups in the workplace. Novel information, therefore, can then be shared across these clusters, resulting in greater widespread awareness and inclusivity than would occur via people with strong ties.

How can cultural differences be managed by international businesses?

Stereotypes, misunderstanding and ignorance related to different cultures and traditions can lead to disruption, offence, and the inability of some teams to work effectively or handle cross-cultural business dealings.

Effective management of cultural differences is not only the remit of human resource management: it extends to every corner of an organisation and must be embedded in everyday business practice.

Managing cultural differences includes embracing diversity and accommodating differences, promoting open communication, discussing and modelling shared company culture and behavioural norms, rallying teams around shared visions and common causes, and providing training, awareness and leadership of cultural diversity.

What are the current and emerging social issues for international businesses in 2023?

For many business leaders, an unstable social, economic, political and environment backdrop will present as many threats as it does opportunities – and, in turn, may impact existing social structures and frameworks.

Global business insights and thought leadership experts INSEAD Knowledge outline some of the events, contexts and trends for businesses to remain aware of:

  • climate change
  • income and wealth inequality
  • social instability
  • inflation and recession risks
  • geopolitical crises

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What is mobile security?

Mobile security is the term used for the various measures that protect mobile devices – such as smartphones and tablets, as well as their data and their associated networks – from unauthorised access or other forms of cyberattack.

Mobile device security measures safeguard any sensitive data stored on or transmitted by mobile devices, and have become crucial now that smartphones have become such an integral part of people’s daily lives.

Why is mobile security important?

Smartphones are everywhere, and have become essential for navigating the modern world. Whether it’s completing an online banking transaction or scanning a QR code to order at a restaurant, people are on their phones all the time – and that’s not even factoring in all of the personal and professional communication that happens on mobile devices, from emails and text messages, to social media apps.

It’s clear today’s phones have evolved beyond mere communication devices and are now repositories of personal, financial and professional information. The implications of mobile data breaches can be severe, including identity theft, data loss, loss of device functionality and financial loss. But by prioritising mobile security, individuals and organisations can mitigate these risks and maintain control over their digital lives.

Common threats to mobile security

There are a number of common risks to mobile security, and these can apply to any mobile device regardless of make or model:

  • Malware. Malicious software, commonly referred to as malware, poses a significant threat to mobile security. It can infiltrate devices through compromised apps, infected websites, or malicious links, allowing cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive data or even grant criminals control over the device.
  • Phishing attacks. Phishing is a technique used by cybercriminals to deceive people into revealing sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details. They often do this by disguising themselves as legitimate organisations in emails, SMS text messages, or on fake websites.
  • Public Wi-Fi networks. While convenient, public networks can be insecure and prone to digital eavesdropping. Hackers can intercept data transmitted over these networks, potentially gaining access to usernames, passwords and other confidential information.

There are also threats and scams that are more likely to target particular devices, such as Android or Apple devices.

Common threats to mobile security on Android devices

Android is the most-used operating system across mobile devices worldwide. It’s also a very open system – virtually anyone can create an app for Android, and it’s relatively straightforward to add an app to the Google Play Store. Because of this, Android devices are more susceptible to malicious mobile apps, which can contain hidden malware or gather sensitive data with a user’s knowledge or permission.

Android’s popularity also makes it a lucrative target for cybercriminals who want to exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system to bypass security measures and gain access to private data or control over a device.

Common threats to mobile security on Apple devices

Apple devices are locked down, which means that they’re less open to customisation when compared to products offered by Android, but it also means they’re better protected against cyber threats. Although Apple’s App Store has stringent security measures in place however, malicious apps occasionally manage to slip through. These apps may contain malware or engage in unauthorised data collection.

Another risk is known as jailbreaking. Jailbreaking an iPhone or iPad is often intentionally done by the owner of an Apple product in order to gain access to the device’s operating system and customise its interface or install software that’s unsupported or unavailable through Apple:

“Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach to its software has always been in contrast to the variety of options provided by the Android OS for customization,” say cybersecurity experts Kaspersky. “A key motivation of many jailbreakers is to make iOS more like Android.”

Doing so, however, can make Apple’s security features more vulnerable and expose the device to security threats.

Common mobile security measures

While there are many threats to mobile security, there are also many safeguards that can protect mobile devices. These include:

  • Security software. There are a variety of antivirus programmes and platforms that can be installed to protect devices and personal data. These programmes typically target a host of common threats such as ransomware and spyware. Most devices also typically have their own built-in security systems that are developed by their providers, such as Microsoft orApple.
  • Authentication and encryption. Strong authentication mechanisms such as PINs, passwords, biometrics, or two-factor authentication add an extra layer of security to mobile devices. Encryption, meanwhile, ensures that data stored on devices or transmitted between devices over networks remains secure and unreadable to unauthorised parties while in transit.
  • Mobile device management (MDM) systems. Organisations can implement MDM solutions to manage and secure corporate-owned mobile devices. MDM enables IT or cybersecurity professionals to enforce security policies, remotely wipe data and control access to sensitive resources. These systems are typically seen as safer than what’s known as bring your own device (BYOD), which allows people to use their own devices for work. BYOD makes things like endpoint security, email security, and application security more difficult for organisations and can potentially expose them to increased risk.
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs). Using VPNs on mobile devices can be effective protection against unauthorised access to the device and its data. This is because VPNs effectively encrypt the connection between the device and the internet.

The future of mobile security

As technology continues to evolve, so do the threats to mobile security. This is why it’s important that individuals and organisations aim to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, and that mobile security solutions continue to evolve and develop as well.

Ongoing areas of advancement include:

  • Biometric security. Biometric methods of authentication such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanning are already becoming commonplace. They typically offer more secure access to mobile devices because they don’t rely on passwords or PINs that can be shared or stolen.
  • Improved app security. App developers and stores continue to strengthen security measures to prevent the distribution of malicious apps and protect their users’ personal information.
  • Cloud security integration. Mobile devices are increasingly relying on cloud services, a trend that necessitates the robust integration of mobile and cloud security measures to collectively safeguard any data stored and accessed from the cloud.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies are expected to play a crucial role in detecting and mitigating mobile security threats by analysing patterns, identifying anomalies and proactively defending against attacks.

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Public sector economics

Central government is responsible for controlling and managing the public sector, which exists to meet the needs of the general public and to improve both their lives and wellbeing. Funded by taxpayers, it’s a broad sector of the economy encompassing education, healthcare, social welfare, infrastructure, emergency services, public transportation, government agencies, law enforcement and national defence, as well as all manner of other public goods and services.

Public sector size and scope is largely dictated by the economic and political systems that exist in a given country, and so public sector goods and services can vary considerably between different countries. Its organisations and businesses are not profit-driven – they simply aim to provide essential products and services to the people. One of its overarching aims is the redistribution of resources to minimise economic and social inequalities, for example through social programmes, social security and welfare initiatives, and progressive taxes.

What are the main differences between the public and private sectors?

There are numerous similarities and differences between the public and private sectors. Here is a comparative snapshot of some of the most clear-cut disparities.


Meeting the needs of the population – and enhancing their overall quality of life – is the primary aim of the public sector. While private companies who provide similar services may have various aims, their main driver is profit.

Finance and funding 

Most enterprises in the public sector are funded via public taxes such as income tax and national insurance. In contrast, private sector enterprises must generate their own financial backing – for example, by gaining venture capital or investment, or through the sale of their goods and services.


Private sector firms – which number around 5.5 million – are privately owned, either by firms or individuals, and operate in the free market. They have no link to central or local government and are owned by non-governmental entities. State-owned enterprises, public bodies and businesses are owned by the government.

Service range and availability 

Public goods and services do not offer as wide a variety of options as private businesses are able to, although there is much crossover in terms of the industries found in both sectors.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) 

PPPs are a method through which governments can procure and implement public goods, services and infrastructure using the expertise and resources of private sector companies. For example, incentives for PPPs include where efficiency needs to be improved or facilities are outdated, private organisations can support with finances, technology, labour and fresh ideas and solutions.

What are the pros and cons of the public sector?

The public sector is understandably complex. Meeting the needs of a diverse, multi-generational population who may live very differently is no easy task. As such, there are several advantages and disadvantages associated with it.

Advantages of the UK public sector include:

  • provision of vitally important services – such as education, transportation and healthcare – to every citizen, regardless of social standing, income or other demographic
  • its responsibility and efforts related to developing, maintaining and stimulating economic growth, economic development, and stability
  • employment for millions of people and greater job security than the private sector
  • the charities and non-profits found within the sector that are committed to addressing social issues such as prejudice, inequality, mental health and poverty.

Disadvantages of the UK public sector include:

  • bureaucracy and processes that result in inflexibility, slow response times and an inability to pivot to changing demands
  • exposure to stringent monitoring and restrictions that are barriers to operational efficiency
  • a lack of creativity and reluctance to change, particularly in comparison to the fast-paced, innovative private sector
  • exposure to political will and intervention that lead to politically driven, as opposed to practical, decisions
  • criticism of government spending, budget inefficiencies, and misuse or waste of taxpayer money.

Is the public sector or private sector better for job creation?

Job creation is generally more prolific in the private sector – a result of its ability to offer employment in areas of high demand, and the sector’s flexibility in responding to real-world market trends and customer preferences. Across both sectors, much overlap exists in terms of available industries and job types. However, private sector jobs far outnumber public sector jobs and, as such, greater employment opportunities are found in that sphere.

Both sectors play an important role in terms of employment and job creation. While the private sector is well-positioned and efficient regarding job creation, government spending has greater size and scope. 

The private sector is also critical to a nation’s broader development strategy, and is free to grow and develop as it has thanks to government spending on key products and services such as healthcare, infrastructure, education, research, and financial services. In the context of a stable macro-economy, private enterprises can invest, innovate, trade and increase employment.

What is privatisation of public services?

The Institute for Government defines privatisation as the ‘the sale of publicly owned assets to private investors [who] take on responsibility for operating, managing and investing in the assets – and providing any services that derive from them in return for a fee from users.’ Some common examples of privatisation in the UK include rail networks, mail services, and public utilities such as water, energy and telecoms.

Recently, there have been concerns that other public organisations – most notably the National Health Service (NHS) – may become privatised. For many citizens, this raises worries about access to vital services and the ongoing quality and maintenance of such services.

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Understanding the global business environment

The global business environment is a complex one. When businesses operate across national borders to buy, sell, produce or manufacture goods and services in different countries, they are obligated to consider a number of important variables. This includes different:

  • tax systems and tariffs
  • legal requirements
  • regulatory and compliance frameworks
  • social and cultural norms
  • political climates
  • technologies
  • economic and market factors
  • shipping and transport processes

In addition to these considerations, international business management requires organisations to have a solid understanding of the current conversations, trends, issues and challenges that can impact businesses operating in the global market.  

Current topics and challenges in global business


Inflation – the term used to describe rising prices – is one of the biggest issues facing businesses today. As of March 2023, the UK inflation rate had reached 10.4%, a significant rise on the target rate of 2%.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), consumer price inflation in the UK has reached highs not seen in around 40 years.

“Higher tradable goods prices reflect the global recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including the effects of imbalances in product and labour markets,” the ONS states. “Food and energy prices have also increased markedly this year, particularly gas prices, largely in response to the conflict in Ukraine.”

The challenge isn’t confined to the UK, though, with the global inflation rate hitting 8.8% in 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

For businesses, high inflation rates can have a number of consequences. For example, they can increase the cost of business operations and reduce purchasing power. However, it’s worth noting that the IMF predicts global inflation will fall to 6.6% during 2023, and then to 4.3% in 2024. 

Global supply chain issues

Many businesses are currently grappling with global supply chain issues, with the supply and shipments of goods unable to keep up with demand, causing global shortages. The supply chain crisis is another challenge exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, but other culprits include changes in international trade – Brexit as one example – in addition to shifts in demand and labour shortages.

International business research by J.P. Morgan found that in addition to these problems, there are a number of challenges and risk factors stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and recent COVID-19 lockdowns in China.

  • Air-freight transportation limitations particularly impacts on use of the Asia-Europe lane where planes would typically travel through Russian airspace.
  • Rail freight disruptions issues connected to the overland rail link from China to Europe which passes through Russia.
  • Northern European port congestion – another spillover impact from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Ships have had to be rerouted causing congestion and leading to delays in cargo flows
  • Manufacturing delays – reduced manufacturing, a truck driver shortage, and other consequences as a result of the recent lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns in China. 

According to KPMG, however, businesses have a number of options to help navigate their way through supply chain issues. These include adopting a flexible business strategy that can adapt by using technology to reduce operating costs and diversify the way customer needs are met, and through implementing responsive fleet management and supply chain networks.

Human resource management

Human resources in an international context is known as global human resources management, and it is a necessity for multinational corporations (MNCs) or any other businesses employing workforces across multiple countries.

Through global human resource management systems, organisations can manage and support their staff by adapting their policies as necessary for different laws and legislation. 

International marketing

As businesses expand into the global environment or other emerging markets, they will need to consider their international marketing strategy.

International marketing enables businesses to effectively promote their goods and services to audiences outside their domestic market. They can adapt to different cultures and languages when building brand awareness in a new territory, and consider outsourcing for cultural expertise in specific regions where needed.

Corporate social responsibility

It has become common practice for a business strategy to include an element of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Corporate social responsibility offers businesses models of how to operate and conduct entrepreneurship in a socially responsible way.

According to Harvard Business School, there are four types of CSR.

  1. Environmental responsibility, which aims to reduce environmentally harmful practices, regulate energy consumption and offset negative environmental impacts.
  2. Ethical responsibility, which focuses on fair practice and business ethics.
  3. Philanthropic responsibility, which aims to make the world and society a better place.
  4. Economic responsibility, which aims to commit to environmental, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities while also maximising profits.


An increasing number of enterprises around the world are introducing sustainability into their business processes and policies to the benefit of both the environment and the business itself. For example, IBM suggests that 80% of consumers say sustainability is important to them and are willing to pay a premium for goods from brands that are environmentally responsible.

There are various metrics businesses can use to assess their sustainability. The World Bank suggests 10 sustainability principles:

  1. Be climate resilient.
  2. Be energy smart.
  3. Be water efficient.
  4. Ensure resource efficiency.
  5. Reduce waste.
  6. Promote sustainable land management.
  7. Eliminate corruption.
  8. Enhance diversity and inclusion.
  9. Ensure staff wellbeing.
  10. Engage and preserve the community.

Mergers and acquisitions

Global mergers and acquisitions are expected to remain strong in 2023. Despite economic uncertainty created by challenges such as the conflict in Ukraine and ongoing supply chain bottlenecks, accounting firms such as PwC suggest there are opportunities for businesses to create new partnerships and take advantage of attractive valuations, lessened competition and new assets coming to market.

Why is it important to understand the global business environment?

Businesses that have a solid understanding of the global economy and international business environment are better positioned to manage challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. A prepared business can: 

  • gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace
  • secure new avenues for foreign direct investment
  • use evidence to support strong business decision-making
  • implement appropriate risk management measures.

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Shaping our shared future through public services

Issues such as criminal justice, education, national intelligence, state welfare, public health, social care and local services are on the agenda of any government – as well as the people they serve. After all, even incremental improvements or deterioration in public service delivery have the potential to impact millions of citizens.

Understanding what young people and adults want, need and expect is important to knowing how public services can best meet their needs. Demand for better public service delivery is high – and demand for individuals with the skills, expertise and abilities to help shape the services used by everyone is also high.

What are public services?

The public sector refers to organisational bodies owned, controlled and funded by the government. Public services, therefore, are any industries and businesses that operate in this sphere; they are taxpayer-funded, available to the public, and intended to support communities.

The public services sector constitutes six groups:

  • Central government – government departments and agencies
  • Local government – councils, emergency services such as police services and fire services, and other local service providers
  • Higher education – colleges, academies and universities
  • Schools – state-funded primary schools, secondary schools and nurseries
  • NHS – hospital trusts, ambulance trusts, GP surgeries, clinical commissioning groups and state-funded health services
  • Private-run public services – charity public services, care homes, housing associations and social care.

Indeed list further examples of public services as social enterprises, energy, telecommunications, public transportation and infrastructure, urban planning, waste management, environmental protection, consumer protection, immigration and customs, postal services, recreation facilities, sanitation services, public broadcasting, and agricultural programmes. In terms of examples of specific organisations , these include the BBC, the Office for National Statistics, the Bank of England, the Civil Service, and the Armed Forces.

Because public bodies and services are ‘for the people’, each public authority is bound by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and INSPIRE Regulations.

What is the difference between the public and private sectors?

Partnerships are common between public and private sector businesses and services – but what is the difference between the two?

While public services refers to organisations run by the government, private sector businesses are privately owned and are not necessarily affiliated with the government. Private sector businesses – of which they are thought to be around six million in the UK – operate on a for-profit basis.

There are other key differences between the two, such as the number of job opportunities available; approximately 5.3 million people are employed within the UK public sector, and 27 million people within the UK private sector. While many of the job titles and industries are very similar – for example, within healthcare – pay and salaries often differ dramatically. Not only are public services not-for-profit, but pay is linked to government allowances and organised into structured pay scales. Public service employees also benefit from greater job stability and more comprehensive pensions and benefits packages.

What are the issues in public service delivery?

UK public services vary widely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the regions within each. Public services and their outcomes are indelibly linked to government budgets and the amount of funding available

As well as budgetary constraints, there are concerns about how public services are managed. Recent data collected by Ipsos highlights that 7 in 10 Britons do not think the government’s policies will improve public services. The public cite issues such as the cost of living crisis, NHS waiting lists, crime and policing, social care, the climate crisis and a lack of affordable housing.

A PwC report titled ‘The road ahead for public service delivery’ identified a number of key drivers in transforming public services for the better, each rooted in addressing customer expectations:

  • Speed. Service providers should aim to deliver services in the shortest possible time for customers, and make sure they are right the first time.
  • Engagement. Services should adopt a customer-centric approach, both participatory and trustworthy.
  • Responsive. Any variation in ability to meet service levels should be monitored and controlled by an intelligent mechanism.
  • Value. Service delivery should be cost-effective and driven by customer outcomes rather than organisational processes.
  • Integration. Services should be integrated and collaborative to ensure customers can be referred and signposted to the services they need from other public organisations.
  • Choice. Service delivery should occur across multiple ‘channels of choice’, dictated by specific customer needs at a given time.
  • Experience. Aim to personalise the customer experience, in line with experiences they receive from private sector services.

How many of these aims will be financially feasible is difficult to pinpoint and presents ongoing challenges for public services organisations and their leaders. Open Public Services (OPS), part of the Cabinet Office, is the government’s reform programme for public services. It encompasses central government, local government, private sector and civil society, aiming to ensure all individuals have access to optimal services. 

What skills are required for a career in public administration?

Public administration is a varied field, providing you with opportunities to pursue a career in any number of industries and positions. Employees within the public sector – from paramedics to policymakers – often spend much of their time applying critical thinking skills to complex situations and phenomena while devising solutions to common and systemic issues.

Job experts Prospects list a number of fundamental skills for a career in public administration:

  • Communication and diplomacy
  • Leadership and influence
  • An ability to formulate reasoned, logical arguments
  • Collaborative working
  • Resilience.

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Public sector organisations and industries

The public sector comprises organisations that are owned, operated or funded by the government, rather than private companies or individuals. 

Funded through taxes and other forms of government revenue, the public sector isn’t driven by profit in the same way that private sector organisations are. Instead, the public sector is:

  • Responsible for serving the public and ensuring that people can rely upon its services when they need them.
  • Regulated by laws that safeguard public interest, and ensure public funds are spent responsibly. 
  • Guided by principles such as equity and fairness.

The public sector operates across several industries, and its organisations have an important impact on the economy and on society more widely. This is because the public sector provides essential infrastructure and services to the people who need them while also providing significant job opportunities.

In the United Kingdom, for example, public sector staff span local government to public bodies such as the NHS. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were an estimated 5.80 million employees in the public sector in December 2022, compared to 27.04 million employees in the private sector. The public sector figure is on the rise, too, being 34,000 (0.6%) more than in September 2022, and 84,000 (1.5%) more than in December 2021. 

Public sector industries

There are several industries that have a significant public sector presence. This includes:


Public sector healthcare ensures that all people in the United Kingdom have free access to essential health services, such as doctor surgeries and hospitals. Funded through general taxation and National Insurance contributions, public sector healthcare is widely believed to be a basic provision with a direct, positive impact on people’s well-being and the wider social environment.


Much like healthcare, free, accessible public schools are available to young people regardless of personal factors such as gender or socioeconomic status. Institutions of higher education, such as some universities, are also considered to be part of the public sector sphere when receiving public money for research funding or teaching.


The public transportation industry plays a vital role in the functioning of modern society, ensuring that both goods and people can move safely and reliably. It includes public transit systems as well as the authorities and organisations that invest in infrastructure.

Safety and defence

The aim of public military and law enforcement agencies – such as the police service, secret intelligence service, and other emergency services – is to ensure that people can live their lives safely and securely..

Public sector organisations

There is a diverse array of organisations within the public sector. A few examples include:

The National Health Service (NHS)

The NHS is one of the best-known examples of a public sector organisation within the UK. Under its umbrella are publicly funded doctor surgeries, dental practices, hospitals, care homes and other healthcare providers. It offers services including:

  • Ambulances
  • Pharmacies
  • Midwifery
  • Optometry
  • Mental health therapies.

The NHS is also one of the largest public sector employers in the UK. In December 2022, it employed an estimated 1.92 million people, an increase of 17,000 (0.9%) compared with September 2022, and an increase of 53,000 (2.8%) compared with December 2021.

The civil service

The civil service is one of the key components of the UK’s central government. It is a politically neutral organisation that administers the government of the day, providing policy advice, implementing decisions and delivering public services.

The civil service is organised into different departments and government agencies that are responsible for specific areas of UK government policy. Some examples of these departments include:

  • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). HMRC is responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing tax laws.
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). DWP is responsible for welfare policy and the administration of benefits, including state pensions, disability benefits and jobseeker’s allowance.
  • Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). DHSC is responsible for healthcare policy and the NHS, as well as public health and social services such as social workers.
  • Home Office. The Home Office is responsible for national security, immigration and border control, and law and order.
  • Department for Education (DfE). DfE is responsible for educational policies for schools, colleges and universities.
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The MoJ is responsible for the justice system, including the courts, prisons and probation service.
  • Department for Transport (DfT). DfT is responsible for transport policy, including roads, railways and aviation.

There were 515,000 employees in the civil service in December 2022, up 2,000 (0.4%) compared with September 2022, and up 8,000 (1.6%) compared with December 2021.

The armed forces

The British Armed Forces includes the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Their responsibilities include combat, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

The BBC provides impartial and independent informational, educational, and entertainment programming on television, radio and online. It is principally funded through a television licence fee paid by UK households.

The Bank of England (BoE)

As the UK’s central bank, the Bank of England is responsible for securing banknotes and regulating banks and other financial firms in the United Kingdom.

Government Operational Research Service (GORS)

The Government Operational Research Service supports the wider civil service with “policy-making, strategy and operations in many different departments and agencies.”

What is a public-private partnership?

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are agreements or collaborations between government organisations and private sector companies that are struck to help deliver public services and infrastructure projects. 

These partnerships aim to leverage private-sector expertise to deliver public projects more efficiently and effectively. A private-public project partnership will typically see private sector businesses designing, building, financing, and overseeing day-to-day decision making on PPP projects in exchange for payments made by the government.

The same is largely true for PPPs used to deliver public services, with examples ranging from the management of certain healthcare services to water supply and waste management.

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What is the public sector?

Despite slight recent improvements in the UK’s economic outlook – and economists’ predictions that gross domestic product will not fall quite as far as previously feared in 2023 – the current situation is far less stable. Economic growth remains in a fragile position, reinforced by the ongoing cost of living crisis, political instability and further budgetary constraints on public spending.

These challenges are integral to the ongoing and future provision of high quality, accessible and widespread national public services led by the public sector.

What is the public sector?

Any industries – and the jobs created within them – that the central government operates or owns are referred to as the public sector. It’s a broad sector, spanning a wide variety of industries and impacting most aspects of public life and livelihood. As its name suggests, the public sector provides a range of public services. They are funded by taxpayers, generally operate on a non-profit basis, and are designed to support people and communities at every level of society. It aims to provide essential services and support to all citizens and uphold individual and collective wellbeing and prosperity.

What constitutes the public sector differs between countries. As well as central government departments, government agencies, and public bodies, the main branches of industry within the UK public sector include:

  •   education, including early years settings, primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and academies, universities and higher education institutions, and other public education providers
  •   emergency services, including fire departments, ambulance trusts and police services
  •   healthcare, including the NHS and hospital trusts, GP surgeries, dentists, state-funded health services and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)
  •   social care and social services, including food banks, financial aid, probation, housing and other care services
  •   public utilities, including gas, water, electricity and waste management services
  •   law enforcement, including police services, prisons and public sector legal services
  •   armed forces, including national defence services such as the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force
  •   local government, including local authorities, councils and other service providers
  •   finance, such as the Bank of England
  •   transit infrastructure, including the development, maintenance and expansion of roads, bridges, airports and public transportation networks
  •   culture and heritage, including institutions such as the British Museum.

There are also a number of privately operated public services, such as housing associations and care homes.

The civil service is a part of the public sector that is associated with ‘the Crown’ and being an employed ‘Minister of the Crown’. Only 1 in 12 public sector employees is classed as a civil servant and the majority work in government services and departments. Parliament is entirely separate to the civil service and those who are employed by Parliament are not civil servants.

Are there differences between the public and private sectors?

While the public and private sectors often work in partnership with one another, there are distinct differences between the two in several areas:

  • Aim – the public sector’s focus is on improving the lives of citizens on a non-profit basis. In contrast, the overriding aim of private companies is to drive revenue and profit.
  • Employment – while there is much overlap between the industries and job roles found within both the public and private sectors, the private sector is far larger and so offers greater job opportunities. In the UK, private sector employees number approximately 27 million, whereas public sector employees number around 5.3 million. Public sector wages are primarily paid for by taxes, while private companies pay wages out of generated income. As such, they are often based on performance and therefore less stable.
  • Ownership – the approximately six million private sector businesses are owned by either individuals or privately-owned firms, and have no affiliation with the government. Some publicly-owned ventures may transfer into private hands if government spending is reduced or the government decides to downsize the ‘state.’
  • Finances – Public bodies and businesses are generally tax-funded and tend to be more stable as a result. Conversely, the private sector relies on money generated by the businesses themselves through the sale of private goods and services, asset sales or through winning investment.
  • Industries – many of the industries are broadly similar, and partnerships between public and private sector are prevalent (for example, private security firms that work for the government, or private care homes that are government-funded). One leading differentiator between whether an industry is public or private is the competition element; competition related to ‘natural monopolies’ such as water supplies and power infrastructure would not be in the best interests of the public, and therefore largely remain public. In contrast, the retail sector – in which competition thrives – is exclusively privately owned.

There is also a ‘third sector’ – the voluntary or not-for-profit sector. Sitting between the public and private sectors, it operates outside of government control but is also not focused on generating profit like the private sector. Charities constitute the largest single category within this sector.

What are the advantages of working in the public sector?

While the number of job roles may be fewer, the public sector offers many advantages to those who work within it.

As the provision of public goods and services is government-owned, one of the greatest benefits of public sector roles is improved job security. Tied to this, work-life balance tends to be better because of fixed, structured hours, while benefits packages, such as bonuses and pension schemes, tend to be more comprehensive and protected. Many public sector businesses have a greater number and range of training and career progression opportunities, linked to targeted, stringent policies that focus on employee development and wellbeing.

Plus, with many jobs in the public sector focused on developing, maintaining and improving public services, roles are often very purpose-driven and rewarding.

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The UK Civil Service: an explainer

The United Kingdom’s Home Civil Service is the politically impartial collection of government departments, agencies, and non-departmental government bodies – also known as NDPBs – that advise governments, support the development and implementation of government policy, and provide public services.

Employed by the Crown, the Civil Service has an impact on the lives of everyone within the United Kingdom. For example, the gov.uk website lists a diverse range of public services that are managed by the Civil Service, including:

  • Benefits and pensions.
  • Employment services.
  • Issuing driving licences.

The Civil Service includes the majority of England’s governmental organisations, as well as the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Government.

Structure of the Civil Service

The Civil Service operates under a clear governance model.

At the top of the hierarchy is the Crown and the Prime Minister, who oversees the government. 

Beneath the Crown is the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service. This individual is the Prime Minister’s senior policy advisor and supports all ministers in the running of government while providing professional leadership within the Civil Service.

Next in the hierarchy is the Chief Operating Officer for the Civil Service. This individual is the Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office, chairs the Civil Service Board, and supports the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service.

There are other permanent secretaries, as well. These are the most senior civil servants within each department of the Civil Service, responsible for the day-to-day running of their departments as well as supporting the government minister who officially heads those departments. The government ministers, meanwhile, are accountable to Parliament for the department’s performance. 

It’s also worth noting that there are Scottish and Welsh Permanent Secretaries, too. According to the UK Government website: “The Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government is accountable to Scottish Ministers and is the Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Government. The Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government is accountable to the First Minister of Wales and is the Principal Accounting Officer for the Welsh Government.”

Finally, there are three boards within the Civil Service:

  1. Civil Service Board (CSB), which is responsible for the strategic leadership of the Civil Service. The CSB is chaired by the Chief Operating Officer for the Civil Service, and includes a cross-section of permanent secretaries from Civil Service departments.
  2. People Board, which is a formal sub-board of the CSB, and considers people-related issues within the Civil Service. For example, it oversees the development of policies around pay and pensions for civil servants.
  3. The Civil Service Shadow Board (CSSB), which is a collection of civil servants from the departments represented at the CSB. CSSB members, however, are more junior than the representatives on the CSB, and can offer different viewpoints on the issues raised at the CSB.

Departments within the Civil Service

The Civil Service includes a diverse range of central government departments and agencies. 

  • The Attorney General’s Office
  • The Cabinet Office
  • Competition & Markets Authority (CMA)
  • Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
  • Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)
  • Department for Education (DfE)
  • Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
  • Department for International Trade (DIT)
  • Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)
  • Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS)
  • Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)
  • Government Digital Service (GDS)
  • Governmental Legal Department (GLD)
  • HM Land Registry
  • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
  • HM Treasury
  • Home Office
  • Homes England
  • Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
  • Ministry of Defence (MOD)
  • Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
  • National Crime Agency (NCA)
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS)
  • Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)
  • Planning Inspectorate
  • Serious Fraud Office (SFO)
  • UK Export Finance (UKEF)
  • Valuation Office Agency (VOA)
  • Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA)
  • Welsh Revenue Authority

Which organisations are not included in the Civil Service?

Not all organisations that are funded by the government sit within the Civil Service. For example, the Civil Service does not include organisations, non-ministerial departments, and non-departmental public bodies such as: 

  • The National Health Service (NHS).
  • The BBC.
  • Local governments.
  • The Armed Forces.
  • The National Archives.

What is the largest department in the Civil Service?

The largest department in the Civil Service is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with more than 79,000 staff members. According to the Institute for Government, the five largest departments in the Civil Service employ about 68% of all civil servants. These departments are:

  1. The Department for Work and Pensions.
  2. The Ministry of Justice.
  3. HM Revenue and Customs.
  4. The Ministry of Defence.
  5. The Home Office.

The Civil Service code

Civil servants are obliged to adhere to the Civil Service Code, which was first introduced in 1996, with several updates in the years after.

The code outlines four core values for civil servants.

  1. Honesty – Civil servants should always aim to be truthful and open with one another and with the people they serve and advise.
  2. Integrity – Civil servants need to put the obligations of public service above their personal interests.
  3. Impartiality – Civil servants must be politically neutral.
  4. Objectivity – Civil servants should base their advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of evidence.

If asked to do anything that conflicts with the code – or if they are aware of another civil servant acting in conflict with the four core values – civil servants can raise their concerns within their departments, or directly with the Civil Service Commission. 

How many civil servants are there?

According to Understanding the Civil Service, there were 515,000 civil servants in the UK as of March 2023. This is approximately 1.6% of the UK workforce (which is around 32.9 million people), and 8.9% of all 5.8 million public sector employees in the UK.

Benefits of working in the Civil Service

According to the Civil Service Careers website, those who take a Civil Service job benefit from:

  • working for an evolving and progressive organisation
  • investments in digital technology
  • access to “exceptional learning and development opportunities and a variety of career paths”
  • flexible working arrangements
  • the Civil Service Pension Scheme, which is one of the more enviable pensions offered by UK employers.

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