New generation of ethical hackers aims to impress recruiters
As the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre starts work, recruiters are busy identifying raw talent to counter future hazards
By Rob Davies
Nov 7 2016
With the launch of the National Cyber Security Centre, backed by £1.9bn of fundingto battle online crime, the government has made a statement.
Defence experts have long warned of the growing menace of cybercrime and now they have good reason to believe the threat is being given priority treatment.
Recognising the danger is one thing though, dealing with it another. The world – and by extension the UK – is facing a shortage of people with the skills needed to mount an effective defence.
The global cyberdefence industry is going to need another 1.5 million staff by 2020, according to non-profit security organisation (ISC)2.
At the Cyber Security Challenge in London – a three-day competition designed to identify raw cybersecurity talents – recruiters are doing their best to address the shortage.
Stephanie Daman, the chief executive of Cyber Security Challenge UK, believes that the UK is slowly recognising the value of ethical hackers, also known as “white hats”, the cybertroops required to protect our increasingly connected world.
“We’re beginning to build a pipeline of people. But that, by its nature, is going to take a little while to come to fruition,” says Daman, who spent 17 years working for the government on security matters.
In the meantime, events such as the Cyber Security Challenge are trying to address the skills gap.
The event is sponsored by corporations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), BT and BAE Systems, while camera-shy staff from GCHQ and the National Crime Agency look on, hoping to unearth a new generation of cyberspooks.
Around half of the contestants in the challenge typically get a job out of it, while all are likely to be interviewed.
Recruiters like the event because it allows people who may not shine academically to show that they can still thrive in a high-pressure, realistic scenario.
Last year’s Cyber Security Challenge was fairly fanciful. It involved a bio-hazard attack and a threat against a minor royal. This year, the challenge is more grounded in reality. The contestants are asked to fight an assault on a fictional energy company, Bolt Power.
They are tasked with assessing and battling an attack from “hacktivist” cybercriminals, repairing a data breach and investigating the theft of £125m.
There are good reasons to be concerned about cyber-attacks on infrastructure within energy, but also in areas such as transport and telecommunications, or even hospitals.
Earlier this year, Theresa May delayed a final decision on the Hinkley Point Cnuclear power plant, and anxiety about the involvement of state-backed China General Nuclear was thought to be among the reasons for the delay.