The US Needs More Cyberwarriors

In this digital age, when the US's most delicate information and processes are housed on vast computer networks, who do we turn to for defence against attacks by cyber-terrorists and 4chan? Now more than ever, the nation needs cyberwarriors.

But the cyberwarriors aren't heeding the call to battle. According to a report on NPR, America needs an army of cyberwarriors, but there just aren't enough of them to go around.

"We don't have sufficiently bright people moving into this field to support those national security objectives as we move forward in time," says James Gosler, a veteran cybersecurity specialist who has worked at the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Energy Department.

It's strange. In the mid-'80s to early '90s, it seemed as if we were on the verge of breeding a nation of cyberwarriors. Films like Hackers promised a future filled with bright young minds, ready to take down cyber-villains with Cookie Monster-shaped viruses of their own design.

Gosler says the skills necessary to work as a cyberwarrior are extremely rare in the US, estimating around 1000 people in the country with the skillset needed to defend our virtual borders against enemy AI insurgents.

Alan Paller, director of the SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS) Institute outside of Washington D.C. backs up Gosler's numbers.

"You go looking for those people, but everybody else is looking for the same thousand people...So they're just being pushed around from NSA to CIA to DHS to Boeing. It's a mess."

So where are all of the cyberwarriors of the world? Peller points to China, where every military district of the Peoples' Liberation Army runs competitions every spring, in order to find top talent to help build a cyberwarrior army. "They search for kids who might have gotten caught hacking," says Peller. It sounds like a late '80s, early '90s movie, doesn't it? One Chinese youth who won the competition was caught hacking into a Japanese computer previously. Instead of punishment, he was rewarded with extra training. ""Later that year, we found him hacking into the Pentagon."

So what are we going to do in the US? Why, copy the Chinese, of course. Several members of Congress are now backing a US Cyber Challenge, weeding out promising talent at the high school level.

"The idea is for schools around the country to field teams, and the teams would compete against one another," says Sen. Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat who is one of the backers of the effort. He sees the challenge as an opportunity "not only for them to hone their skills on being able to hack into other systems, particularly those of folks we may not be fond of, but also to use what they learn to strengthen our defenses."

Last year's winner was 17-year-old Michael Coppola from Connecticut, who won the game by hacking into the computer and altering his score.

"There's actually a flaw within that Web application," Coppola says. "Using that, I was able to execute commands on the computer running the scoring software, and I was able to add points and basically do whatever I wanted."

Michael is now 18, and seeking a job in cyber security. We're pretty sure he's going to find one.

Cyberwarrior Shortage Threatens U.S. Security [NPR]


Comments

    Sites like 4chan are why skilled people are rarer. Instead of developing better skill sets and knowledge, the people who might have become valuable in these ways just became trolls a flaming internet retards instead.

    Seriously guys, "cyberwarriors"?
    This isn't the 90s anymore, surely we can think of a name that doesn't make us cringe whenever an old fogey on TV uses the phrase to describe thems people who be knowledgeable in the interwebs.

    Maybe they just wise up and realize that working for the US military industrial complex doesn't make you one of the good guys?

    The hopelessly corrupt American government? Who the hell would want to work for them =.=

    How does the 4chan crowd overlap with cyberwarrior/hackers at all? 4chan is mostly a bunch of overweight neckbeards or 'ironic' teens who merely possess a taste for petty cunning on the internet.

    If the "1000 in USA" figure is any measure, we're looking at an extremely small number of bright kids with extraordinary skill.

    It might sound like the wetdream of some nerdy 4chan goon, but reality is that he's no more qualified for this type of thing than any computer savvy person. Hollywood blows it out of control. Hell, in Transformers 1, the hackers are all neckbeards or attractive teens who do their job by sifting through Decepticon symbols.

Join the discussion!