Wanted: 10,000 New Cybersecurity Pros

US Cyber Challenge Kicks Off Nationwide Talent Search
Wanted: 10,000 New Cybersecurity Pros
The US Cyber Challenge is looking for 10,000 young Americans with the skills to fill the ranks of cybersecurity practitioners, researchers and warriors.

"The US Cyber Challenge is a nationwide talent search that aims at nurturing those individuals who are interested to make it through the abyss on the other side where there are scholarships, internships and jobs," says Karen Evans, the onetime de facto federal CIO. "This is a framework to develop their skills, give them access to advanced education and exercises, and enable them to be recognized by colleges and employers where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation."

The mantra, Evans says, is to "grow the pool." Right now there are not nearly enough professionals with the qualifications to fill the required cybersecurity positions both within the public and private sectors.

Take for instance, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's effort to hire 1000 new cybersecurity experts. DHS top cybersecurity leader Philip Reitinger says the demand outpaces the supply in this field. "My top goal (for 2010), and nothing else even comes close, is to continue to add to the great core of human capital I've already got," Reitinger says in an interview with GovInfoSecurity.com.

Recognizing the shortage of skilled professionals to perform security work nationwide, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) invited Evans to head the United States Cyber Challenge with the main objective of creating a cybersecurity workforce for the future.

The US Cyber Challenge recently conducted a series of online competitions developed by SANS, an organization that provides security training and certification, to identify participants in three states: California, New York and Delaware. These individuals will be invited to attend a summer camp in their state, where they'll receive a week of training by SANS and university faculty and students.

Three states are participating this year, and the goal is 35 camps in 32 states for next year, says Evans. The California State Polytechnic University in Pomona will host its week-long training camp from July 19 to 23. The other campuses that will host camps are the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (July 26 to 30) and Wilmington University in Dover, Delaware (August 9 to 13). All expenses including travel, housing and meals will be paid for the selected participants. Each camp will have around 15-25 participants. "These competitions are meant for anyone to participate who is looking to develop new skills, transition into the security field or start a career," says Evans.

Attendees will get hands-on training in intrusion detection, penetration testing, forensics, secure computing and other security-related topics. At the end of the week, the groups will be broken into small teams to play a capture-the-flag competition for prizes and recognition. Capture-the-flag will essentially require the participants to identify weaknesses in other teams' systems while defending their own.

The whole idea is to build a community in the long term, influencing high school and college students to stay involved, choose majors in cybersecurity and understand the different career opportunities that lie ahead. "This initiative is like the subset of a Facebook community that meets in the middle ... where both sides (employers and job seekers) are comparing different things they want -- type of jobs, etc. And at the end, if everything works out, it is like an eHarmony match-up," Evans says. "So, the US Cyber Challenge is really a national framework that identifies people who have the skill set to move and embrace a career in cybersecurity."

Initial funding for the program is coming from CSIS and SANS. But one of Evans' major goals is to seek active participation and sponsorship from the private and public sectors to create a resource pool in terms of a 'talent bank' and make this program self-funding. "Everyone will benefit from this greater good -- all of these organizations, both industry and government, will ultimately benefit at the end," says Evans. " I'd like to build the foundation of young Americans and help them get placed in cool positions within cybersecurity and seek integrated partnership to leverage this resource pool and get the big return on investment." For more information visit the US Cyber Challenge website .

About the Author

Upasana Gupta

Upasana Gupta

Contributing Editor, CareersInfoSecurity

Upasana Gupta oversees CareersInfoSecurity and shepherds career and leadership coverage for all Information Security Media Group's media properties. She regularly writes on career topics and speaks to senior executives on a wide-range of subjects, including security leadership, privacy, risk management, application security and fraud. She also helps produce podcasts and is instrumental in the global expansion of ISMG websites by recruiting international information security and risk experts to contribute content, including blogs. Upasana previously served as a resource manager focusing on hiring, recruiting and human resources at Icons Inc., an IT security advisory firm affiliated with ISMG. She holds an MBA in human resources from Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa.

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