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09 October 2009, 09:09

British Government to use talent competition to find the best young hackers

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IT security experts are few and far between while criminal activity, espionage and cyber attacks are only becoming more commonplace. Governments try to protect their infrastructure and better defend themselves in cyber wars and based on the example set by the Cyber Challenge in the US, the British government is now also planning a search for young talent according to the Times Online.

With support from the SANS Institute, young hackers and geeks will first play games to demonstrate their ability to fend off attacks, find passwords on a computer and hack websites. The best performers will then have a shot at six-figure salaries in the public or private sector. Judy Baker, a security consultant and the person in charge of getting companies to participate in the project, says that both governmental authorities and private firms need "more and better security experts to protect intellectual property and business continuity and keep private communications private."

The winners of the British competition will then take courses at the SANS Institute and have experts as mentors. There's also talk about university scholarships and work experience. The talent search is scheduled to begin late next year. The competition, if successful, could easily become part of a new cyber security strategy.

A few months ago, the Cyber Challenge competition was launched in the US in collaboration with the SANS Institute. The US government plans to find 10,000 young Americans who can become cyber security experts for the military, the secret service, private firms, or researchers. For instance, the US Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will be hiring 1,000 new experts over the next few years. Cyber security is one of their top priorities.

In three competitions – CyberPatriot conducted by the Air Force Association at high schools, the DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge organised by the Pentagon's Cyber Crime Center and NetWars at the SANS Institute – the best young talent will be found and sent on to receive further training in "cyber camps" at universities; they will also receive support in finding a job "where their ability will serve the nation best". But first, they have to try to find evidence on a virtual hard drive or defend a server under attack. The first winner at NetWars was a 17-year-old pupil that cracked the scoring system for the Cyber Challenge and awarded himself 10,000 points.

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