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Security In Context

Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting your critical IT infrastructure.

It Takes More Than a Decoder Ring

Post by Marc Maiffret December 6, 2011

This week I was invited to lend my “expert thoughts” on a recent news piece on a UK intelligence agency which has opened up their hiring practices to include an online code cracking competition.  The team over at CNN’s Situation Room thought this was an interesting concept and invited me in for a quick discussion. While my 10 seconds on camera doesn’t really spell out the entire story, I thought I’d do a quick blog post to give my thoughts on the subject. You can check out the entire video here.

 While the concept itself is interesting, I think this mostly gimmick recruitment campaign highlights a larger issue that countries like ours (and clearly the UK) have, in that our universities are not  graduating students with Computer Science degrees that have security as a major component to them. Clearly this isn’t due to lack of awareness.  With Stuxnet, Duqu, Aurora, even Morto (ya, even Morto) in the news every day, why isn’t this an area of instruction?

At the recent Republican debates, cyber security was highlighted as a critical infrastructure issue, but in reality there is the very real issue of  not having enough skilled, educated people to help secure or analyze the systems, data and angles that are required to keep our country safe.  This probably won’t be solved by a decoder-ring type of contest, but rather real and substantive instruction.  For a while, we’ve heard how the US often lags in math and sciences as fields of study;  as they are closely related, I feel that we’ll be having the same discussions soon around security expertise.

During a really interesting time in my life, my mom made a comment to a certain set of authority figures that “hackers” like me were soon to be America’s greatest natural resource and that we should be properly educated and coached.  This type of contest makes me think she knew exactly what she was talking about.

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