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Government’s Cyphinx looks to youth to tackle skills in cyber security

Tue, 29 Sep 2015
Cyphinx Minecraft game
The online game Minecraft is used for the challenge

While recruiters welcome the government’s latest effort to tackle the country’s shortage of cyber security professionals, the infancy of the sector and resulting lack of a talent pipeline mean these shortages are set to continue for at least the next decade.

This morning government announced the launch of Cyphinx, a gaming portal from Cyber Security Challenge UK, aimed at finding, testing and recruiting the next generation of cyber security talent among the over 12s.

The portal boasts a 3D virtual skyscraper that acts as a gateway to a range of cyber security games, competitions and ciphers (an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption) and recruitment opportunities.

Luke Vile, associate director at Beecher Madden, a recruiter operating within the sector, says because of cyber attacks by criminal organisations and governments, and the fact the industry didn’t really exist a decade ago, the government is being forced to target a “missing generation” in the under 16s.

“The reason they are targeting people under 16 years old is because there is a lack of people now getting into it, so government is pushing it at a much earlier age.”

Meanwhile Chris Dunning-Walton, owner of cyber security staffing specialist InfoSec People, told Recruiter that despite this latest government initiative, he predicts shortages will last for the next decade.

“There will be a skills shortage in the information security landscape for the next 10 years at least.

“That’s because there aren’t enough people with the depth of knowledge and experience to come in and across the information security arena.”

He went on to explain there was no substitute for experience: “You cannot do an information security course for six months, and go in and work as a head of security for a company – it just doesn’t happen.”

Cyphinx sees candidates aged from 12 years old create avatars, enter a virtual skyscraper, interact with other candidates, and engage with potential employers. As they work their way through the games, players’ scores are entered on to leader boards for cyber security-related disciplines such as risk analysis, forensic analysis, network defence and ethics, giving them the chance to prove and showcase their individual cyber skills and create a digital CV in the process.

The first collection of games for Cyphinx, which includes a version of online game Minecraft to test cyber skills, have been developed by global technology companies Clearswift and ProCheckUp.

Sponsor organisations supporting the development of Cyphinx include the SANS Institute, BT, Skyscape Cloud Services, GCHQ, QinetiQ, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Airbus, National Crime Agency, IRM, Raytheon, PwC, PGI, Bank of England, National Grid, HMGCC (Her Majesty’s Government Communication Centre) and ProCheckUp.

The Cyber Security Challenge began in 2010 aiming to create a series of virtual and face-to-face competitions that identifies talented people for the cyber security industry. 

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