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Educating the Next Generation of Cyber Warriors

The term “hacker” is almost exclusively associated with nefarious activities – from infiltrating email accounts to discovering and preying upon the vulnerabilities of corporate networks. Yet, “good” hackers provide a formidable defense against such threats. After completing educational courses and training, these cyberexperts, also known as “white hat hackers,” can find network weaknesses and prevent attacks. Both the federal government and the private sector are quickly realizing that the need for good hackers is one of the most important issues in the battle for cybersecurity.

In February 2010 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a cybersecurity bill aimed at protecting the nation from cyberattacks. The bill focuses on education and recruitment to combat malicious hackers and other cybercriminals. According to Representative Michael Arcuri, the government needs to hire between 500 to 1,000 “cyber warriors” annually to fight such threats.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on cybersecurity in the US, but the number of elite experts is inadequate to combat all threats. According to a recent Newsweek article, there are approximately 1,000 elite cyber warriors in the US, while as many as 20,000 are needed. As rates of cybercrime continue to rise, recruitment is now more important than ever.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan and nonprofit organization, is working to identify the next generation of cyberexperts through a program called the “US Cyber Challenge.” The organization’s website states:

“The US Cyber Challenge is looking for 10,000 young Americans with the skills to fill the ranks of cyber security practitioners, researchers, and warriors. Some will become the top guns in cyber security. The program will nurture and develop their skills, give them access to advanced education and exercises, and where appropriate, enable them to be recognized by colleges and employers where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation.”

While education focusing on hacking is necessary for recruiting future cyberexperts, some argue that this type of training can turn cyber warriors into cybercriminals. Yet, doesn’t the benefit outweigh the potential risk? As harmful hackers become more innovative, finding equally talented white hat hackers becomes all the more important.

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