Got cyber skills? Uncle Sam wants you
A program looks for the next generation of cybersecurity top guns
A group of private and government organizations has launched a program to build the next generation of U.S. cyber defense leaders.
The U.S. Cyber Challenge is looking for 10,000 young Americans
with the skills to be cybersecurity practitioners, researchers,
guardians, and cyberwarriors. The program will provide participants
with competition, training, recognition and a chance to win
scholarships. It is led by the Center for Strategic and International
Studies and includes the Defense Department’s Cyber Crime Center, the
Air Force Association and the SANS Institute
Experts say there is an urgent need to expand the federal
cybersecurity workforce. The Partnership for Public Service and Booz
Allen Hamilton recently released a report that
said the government will be unable to combat cyber threats without “a
more coordinated, sustained effort to increase cybersecurity expertise
in the federal workforce.” The study said the “pipeline of potential
new talent is inadequate.”
“This is the biggest issue for the cyber community, this is the
biggest national issue,” Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS
Institute, said July 22. “But it’s played wrong a lot of the time, it’s
played as if we need more bodies – it’s not that we need more bodies,
we need bodies with particular skills.”
The U.S. Cyber Challenge program includes three ongoing competitions:
- The CyberPatriot Defense Competition, a national high school cyber defense competition run by the Air Force Association.
The DC3 Digital Forensics Competition, a DOD competition that focuses on cyber investigation and forensics.
NetWars Capture the Flag Competition, a SANS Institute challenge to test the mastery of vulnerabilities.
Paller said although the Air Force Association competition is
limited to high school students, the other two competitions don’t have
age restrictions. However, he said the camps are limited to students in
the latter part of high school and in college.
Paller said the competitions are a way for people to prove that they
have talent. However, he said the U.S. Cyber Challenge is a “nurturing
program” and is unique because it continues after the competition
“If you think about sports, grade school and high school give
kids the chance to show that they might be good at basketball or soccer
or football -– we don’t have anything like that in cyber except bad
things,” Paller said. “The only way you can show you're good in cyber
right now is to do something that really can get you in trouble, if
you’re a kid.”
Young people who do well in the competitions will then be
invited for to cyber camps at colleges where they will get further
instruction and face additional competition. Then, the young people
who are successful at the camps will participate in live
competitions around the country.
Those who excel in the program can then receive different types
of scholarships, Paller said. He added that the young people who
participate in the program make a commitment not to use it for “evil.”
“The whole idea is to make it so cool that the kids who might
have thought about doing it for evil will say ‘Hey…I’m going to do it
for good,’ and at least try it and maybe we get them hooked,” Paller
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.