Not too long ago, the country with the largest military and most advanced warfare technologies held all the cards in geopolitics. But things have changed. Hackers are now a seriously pressing threat with their ability to meddle in national democratic elections, bring down national health services and hold companies at ransom for millions. Cyber criminals threaten the security of individuals and nations alike, as well as peace, order and rule of law. We at BTA have seen first-hand how disruptive ransomware and other cyber attacks can be to UK businesses. It isn’t just the amount spent on regaining control of IT systems that is damaging, it is the cost of lost productivity and the liability for personal data loss as well.
So it is no surprise that defending against cyber warfare is becoming an increasing priority for the UK. As we heard Philip Hammond announce in the 2017 Budget, the UK will be trebling the number of computer science teachers to 12,000.
But more excitingly, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has recently launched a new programme that will test students’ potential for white-hat hacking and nurture those with cyber talent. The ultimate goal of the programme is to address the cyber security skills gap.
The Cyber Discovery website invites pupils to register. Once registered, they are pushed through a series of cyber challenges that get progressively more difficult, with the aim of testing a wide range of underlying IT skills.
The first stage, CyberStart Assess, is a set of fun interactive challenges that test the pupils’ aptitude and existing knowledge of computer security. If they pass the initial knowledge requirements, they move on to CyberStart Game, which has hundreds of hours of real-world cyber security challenges the students need to solve.
The best-of-best move on to CyberStart Essentials, where they have the chance to improve their knowledge with 100+ hours of extra video tutorials, quizzes and learning guides. Finally, the top performing students progress to additional face-to-face mentoring and further training opportunities such as a live Capture the Flag competition.
The challenges can be completed at the student’s home in a web browser—meaning that the learning environment won’t require alterations to network settings or the use of virtual machines. Making it easily accessible is critical to the programme gaining traction as students aren’t able to travel easily or buy expensive IT equipment.
BTA has had apprentices for several years, many of who hadn’t realised that there are very well-paid, exciting career options in IT and cyber security. Many of us just ‘fall into’ a job or career path, or just carry on in the industry we got our first job, only to realise years later that we aren't passionate about it. With the Cyber Discovery programme and the UK’s increased investment, we hope that more and more students will develop a genuine interest, if not passion, for cyber security and IT. And with initial feedback from this programme being positive, it would seem we are on our way.
BTA is a Manged Service Provider with over 20 years of experience, based in Wandsworth, London, serving clients across the UK. Specialising in completely outsourced IT and ongoing assistance for IT Managers, BTA offers the full spectrum of IT services from cloud solutions to data backup and recovery. For more information, please call 0208 875 7676 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.