Some 2,000 cadets a year are to be trained to become the next generation of cyber-security leaders with more than £1 million being invested in the Cadets CyberFirst programme each year.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson explained that cadets enrolled in this programme will have various courses to choose from. This will include basic courses to teach them the tools, knowledge and skills to protect small networks, while cadets able to take on more advanced knowledge can pursue advanced courses that fully immerse cadets in cyber-security issues.
The Defence Secretary announced plans to increase the number of cadets in schools to 60,000 by 2024 and hold a National Cadet Week to celebrate their achievements.
Williamson said "Cyber-threats to the UK are constantly evolving and this exciting initiative to train and develop ‘cyber cadets’ – the first of its kind in a NATO state - reaffirms our leading role in tackling security threats head on.
"It is important to recognise the vital role cadets play in our communities, and I am determined to grow the number of young people signing up and make sure their successes are properly recognised each year."
The UK as a whole is facing a growing amount of cyber-threats and to combat them we need the right skills for the amount of risk. In the NCSC’s first year alone it received over 1,100 cyber-incident reports.
In an email to SC Media UK Michael Madon, SVP & GM security awareness at Mimecast commented: "With many cadets going on to join the armed forces, this scheme should help the MoD get a head start on equipping recruits with vital cyber-security skills. It can also help get smart, would-be hackers on side, before they’re tempted to use their skills for less worthy means.
"Simple cyber-security training doesn’t do enough to prompt individuals to change their behaviour, which is exactly why so-called ‘inadvertent insiders’ are the leading cause of compromised records. If people truly understand the risks posed by using any connected device, they’re more likely to adapt their actions to minimise those risks.
"In the military, people take security seriously because they understand how they contribute to the wider picture. They care because their hearts and minds believe in what they’re doing. It’s exactly the mind-set every organisation needs to replicate to keep ahead of cyber-criminals."
Jake Moore, cyber security specialist at ESET UK, adds: "Any encouragement to close the skills gaps that exist to enable a better defence will reap benefits moving forward. We need people to embrace the industry, get excited and pursue a positive cyber career; learning when you’re young is so much easier, it flows more naturally when you have a keen interest to understand, question and even diversify your options for the road ahead. We live in a digital world – yes it’s great to get outdoors and play sports but it’s also important to understand the dangers that exist from digital attacks that can in essence come from any place in the world. As the dangers evolve we need nimble minds able to adapt and adopt strategies in real time."
Rob Norris, VP head of enterprise & cyber security, Fujitsu EMEIA agreed, telling SC Media UK that the organisation had also taken its own initiative in this area: "It is evident that there is currently a shortage of talent in the cyber-security industry, which we as a nation are struggling to circumvent. ...this new scheme provides an invaluable resource as the country looks to identify and nurture the cyber experts of the future.
"Last week we announced the launch of the University Technology College Cyber Security Group which looks to ensure that we – and other private organisations – are doing our best to develop the right cyber skills to adequately protect the UK from future cyber threats and attacks."