Hogwarts for hackers: new Bletchley cyber security college to open in 2018
Bletchley Park, a suburb of Milton Keynes in England, was central to World War Two intelligence efforts. Scientists including Alan Turing designed the first ever electric programmable computer there (Colossus) and used it to crack the Nazi’s Enigma Code. Bletchley Park is synonymous with British codebreaking and also now houses the National Museum of Computing.
Major powers like China and Russia have been flexing their cyber-muscles recently, probing and occasionally breaking the West’s defences. A state-sponsored hacking attack exacerbated the Clinton email scandal during the recent presidential election and could arguably have led to Trump’s win. The Fancy Bear attack on the World Anti-Doping Agency was clearly in revenge for the ban on Russian athletes from the Olympic games. Critical national infrastructures, governments and defence contractors are at risk of attack, indeed some have been breached. Cyber-attacks are weapons, and countries are using them.
That’s on top of any number of lone hackers and organisations intent on causing havoc on the internet. There was the massive hack on Yahoo!, discovered in 2016, which compromised 500,000 people’s personal details. Tesco Bank is still reeling from the day a month ago when customers logged into their bank accounts only to find they had been emptied by hackers. The Internet of Things is upon us, and many of the products that make it up are not very secure at all. Your fridge can steal your identity.
Instead of running around in little circles and gibbering because of all this, the Brits are using their characteristic sang-froid and stiff upper lip to have a jolly good crack at the bounders who are doing nasty things to their computers. Over industrial amounts of tea and crumpets, it has been decided that a new National College of Cybersecurity is to be opened at … well, Bletchley of course, old chap. Do pay attention, Bond.
The actual building used by Turing and Co. to help the Allies win the war will be part of a new Hogwarts for young cyberwizards. The Cybersecurity College will nurture frighteningly talented 16 to 19-year-olds with a focus on thwarting attacks. It is part of a £50 million plan to bolster the UK’s defences against the growing threat. The College is funded by an industry-wide initiative called Qufaro, with representatives from industry and the National Museum of Computing. It tackles a worrying skills gap in the UK which currently leaves it vulnerable to severe cyber attacks. Traditional schools and universities can’t meet the demand, because all the students want to be marine biologists and pop stars.
The College is due to open in 2018 and will be a boarding school that is free to attend for those who can prove they are talented enough and are not Russian or Chinese. The 2018 intake is already oversubscribed and the College expects to expand almost as soon as it opens.
"Our cyber education and innovation landscape is complex, disconnected and incomplete putting us at risk of losing a whole generation of critical talent," said Alastair MacWilson, the chair of Qufaro and the Institute of Information Security Professionals.
"For those interested in forging a career in cyber, the current pathway is filled with excellent but disparate initiatives - each playing a vital role without offering a truly unified ecosystem of learning and support.
"By connecting what already exists and filling the gaps, Qufaro will make it easier for budding professionals to grow their cyber security skills at every stage of their journey, and contribute more to the sector as a result."
Bletchley Park Trust founding member Margaret Sale says previous generations are "deeply proud" of their work at Bletchley Park and welcomes the contributions of the next hackers.
"Through initiatives such as the National College and the Cyber Investment Fund we can effectively combine the principles of heritage, education and innovation for which everything on this site stands," Sale says.
The students will work in Block G, a building that was home to traffic analysis and deception operations during World War II.