Skip to main content
UK government issues call for young cyber wizards

UK government issues call for young cyber wizards

Last year featured a story about a new centre for cyber security at Bletchley Park in the UK, a ‘Hogwarts for hackers’ designed to recruit the best young minds in I.T. in the fight against cyberterrorism and other computer-based threats to national security. Housed in the actual building where Alan Turing and co broke the Enigma code in World War II with the first ever electric programmable computer, it is slated to open in 2018 and will train 16 to 19-year olds in the dark arts of hacking. These youngsters will effectively form an army of cybersoldiers working to protect us from external and internal threats, and the time to get them trained up is now. Encouragingly, the 2018 intake is already oversubscribed.

In an associated development, the UK government has now announced a £20m initiative to get schoolchildren interested in cybersecurity. It aims to fill a looming skills gap in I.T. security that poses a threat to our national safety.

In order to keep feeding places like Bletchley Park with brilliant and engaged minds, this programme starts with 15-year-olds in Britain’s schools. It is an extracurricular learning programme presented to students with the tagline ‘Could you have a hidden talent for cybersecurity?’.

The recruitment drive’s blurb is a potent call to action for the right kind of minds. Here is some of it:

‘In the not-too-distant future, you will be the people protecting the UK from cyber attacks and ensuring our online world is a safe place to live and work.

It is your generation that will be cracking codes, creating new software tools and finding security flaws that will help protect our digital lives.

We're looking for the next generation of security experts that can stay one step ahead of cyber criminals. Could that be you?’

The only thing missing is Lord Kitchener pointing out of a poster with the stern message ‘Your country needs you.’ But the promotional video is more or less an updated version of the same thing.

Cyber Discovery is delivered by a consortium of infosec training company SANS Institute, British Telecom and FutureLearn. Students registering for the programme will have until January 2018 to undertake the online assessment, which aims to find the brightest young talent.

The online programme, which students can sign up to on their own, is gamified into four ‘phases’: Assess, Game, Essentials and Elite. What self-respecting geek kid wouldn’t want to get into Elite as quickly as possible? When they do, they get additional face-to-face mentoring and further training opportunities including a live Capture the Flag system defence hackathon.

James Lyne, Global Head of Research and Development at delivery partner SANS Institute, said of the programme: ‘It’s been a privilege to be involved in a programme that aligns exactly with what SANS stands for: training to fill the cyber security skills gap. Using gamification to teach is a great and innovative way of ensuring interest is captured early on in this technology-led generation, which is something I, personally, am very excited about being a part of.'

Teachers can sign up to be club leaders and run a club at their school, exploring cool-sounding topics like ethical hacking, penetration testing and digital forensics.