This week I attended a social event with the Cyber Security Challenge, which is now deep into its second ‘campaign'.
Hosted at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, it was opened by Brigadier Mark Baines who said that the MoD was ‘working hard to engage with and understand technology and engage with cyber to bring it into focus with the inception of the internet'. Personally, he said that the MoD was interested in communication and its method was ‘robust command and communication' in order to ‘get the most out of cyber'.
Cyber Security Challenge director Judy Baker said that the MoD had an ‘enormous amount of talent' but what was short was available talent. That has been the point of the Cyber Security Challenge, although Baker referenced a survey that said that 95 per cent of respondents knew nothing about what was available in a career in the cyber security space.
“We need to turn that around and we have vision that organisations will be able to go to security professionals and recruit what they need. The Cyber Security Challenge is offering a path but we are a long way from our objective,” she said.
Baker also referenced the difficulty of attracting female contestants, saying that while she did not expect it to be a 50/50 split, they needed to find ways to attract more women, as they had only made up eight per cent of the first year entrants and four per cent of the second year.
Also at the event were sponsors from Cisco and Sophos. The latter's CTO Gerhard Eschelbeck said that it was ‘easy to sponsor something that you believe in, and we do believe in this'.
He said: “The security industry is changing rapidly and we believe in finding the brightest and best in the security industry and help solve the problems in the IT industry that our customers are facing.
“For the participants, we say congratulations and I have positions for all of you! The big problems in security are not solved by computers, they are solved by humans.”
Closing the event was Cisco's Paul King, who agreed with Eschelbeck's last point, saying that it was ‘about humans and the way you think'.
He cited a presentation to 150 nine-year-old children, and said he tried to explain that pop-ups that say you have won an iPad were not true. He said that youngsters were interested in getting the best out of technology, but it was important to teach internet safety. “If we talk about how to store secrets, it may be more interesting than how to configure a firewall,” he said.
“Part of the message is that this is not about intrusion detection systems, firewalls and viruses, It is about other things that are going on, you have got to engage to go forward.”
The message coming from this event is that while the Cyber Security Challenge is generating interest from candidates and the press (both winners were present at the event, one appeared later that evening on the BBC's Newsnight), perhaps it is not attracting the cross-section it was hoping for.
The consensus of what was said is that it is important to get youngsters involved and interested in technology, and while this is proving to be a success on some levels, there is still work to be done.