Cyber warriors wanted by Uncle Sam
In the face of continuing threats to online security and a potential future shift from conventional warfare to targeted cyber attacks, the risks of a cyber war are serious. Now the US Cyber Challenge has been launched as part of a campaign to find 10,000 Americans to become the next generation of cyber warriors.
Hacking has a long tradition in the United States. Many of the IT specialists now working for the FBI and other secret services are former hackers, who have given up poaching to become gamekeepers.
The SANS-Institute, an industry sponsored company that offers information security training programmes and operates the Storm Center warning system to detect and analyse cyber threats, has now called for a nationwide challenge to recruit future cyber experts for Uncle Sam. The organisers are looking for 10,000 young, talented Americans, to become the next generation of cyber-security experts, researchers and warriors.
However, he US Cyber Challenge is different from previous attempts to recruit web experts in one crucial respect: it is not looking for established hackers. This competition is geared towards a much younger generation - teenagers who have yet to complete high school. The goal is to recruit the most talented cyber whizzes,supervise their education and advance their knowledge whilst they are still in school. In the long run, they will beoffered scholarships or jobs at high ranking institutions.
The competition was piloted in California, Maryland and Rhode Island and is now being officially launched, with a number of states conducting formal campaigns to encourage schools and students to participate.
Sponsors of the US Cyber Challenge include the non-profit organization The Center for Internet Security, which in turn is supported by numerous organizations and companies, as well as a long list of Universities, major enterprises such as Cisco and Microsoft, the New York State Office of Cyber Security, network providers, IT security companies, the armaments manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the US Navy as a provider of scholarships.
The support of US politicians during the campaign reflects the immense national preoccupation with cyber security. Senator Thomas Carper, Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee with jurisdiction over cyber security, encouraged students to participate: "In order to address the growing cyber security challenges facing our increasingly technology dependent society, we must focus on encouraging the next generation of Americans to develop the technology skills necessary to defend our country in this emerging battlefield”.
Congressman Jim Langvine, Chairman of the US President’s Commission on Cyber Security, is one of the challenge’s most eager supporters. He himself has launched numerous school competitions on a smaller scale whose goal it is, “to train competent workers that are up to the task of ensuring the security of our cyber networks. A task, which is quickly becoming a national priority”.
So, is the US government gearing up for a cyber war? All signs indicate that the recruitment of soldiers at schools, a standard method used by the US army, is still a success. Only, this time, Uncle Sam is not just looking for soldiers to fight battles on the ground but warriors to defend us in cyber space.
More at http://www.uscyberchallenge.org/
Photograph: Adrian Lamo, threat analyst and "grey hat" hacker - © Adrian, Wikimedia Commons