Organised cybercrime is no longer just a boardroom headache; it's increasingly a very personal one. As the attacks on Sony Entertainment and Ashley Madison highlight, as a result of which very private data was made public, cybercrime threatens to tear at the heart of both public and private life if it is not addressed effectively.
Whether as masterminds of these attacks or foot soldiers in the pay of criminal gangs, teenager hackers have been linked with many high profile cybercrimes in recent years. In fact, the frequency of teenage cyber-attacks is growing as each generation's competency grows, with the ready availability of 'malware as a service' and as our attack surface increases with the growth in number of connected devices. So how can we ensure that the next generation helps in the fight against cybercrime rather than turning to the dark side?
Today's young IT enthusiasts could hold the key to plugging the widening cyber-security skills gap that the industry is currently experiencing, but they need to be encouraged to use their skills for good rather than to undermine our digital world. The skills gap is real. Frost and Sullivan's latest Global Workforce Survey predicts a shortage of 1.5 million information security professionals by 2020.
Yet, the industry is failing to provide a clear path for young people to find work, hone their skills and serve society. So they are often being tempted to exacerbate the cybercrime problem, rather than prevent it.
In a wide-ranging new survey Kaspersky Lab polled 12,000 consumers and IT professionals. We discovered that the concern under-25s feel from high profile cyber-attacks only marginally exceeds their curiosity. In fact, 57% of under-25s consider hacking to be an 'impressive' skill and only 35% of all respondents admitted that they felt uncomfortable about people who have the skills to hack. Many are already adept at blurring the lines, with a third of under 25s (31%) able to hide their IP address, for example.
While one in four (27%) have considered a career in cyber-security, with almost half (47%) regarding it as a good use of their talent, many others admit an inclination to engage in more questionable activity. Only half (50%) of under-25s would actually join the fight against cybercrime; a significant number would use their skills for fun (17%), secretive activities (16%), and financial gain (11%) instead.
The IT industry is quick to point the finger at the education system, feeling that educators have a key part to play in encouraging young talent into the profession and equipping it with the necessary skill levels. More than six in ten (62%) IT professionals claim that the education system should be responsible for training up new generations of cyber-security professionals. The good news here is that work has already started in the education sector, with the UK government recently announcing a 'Post-16 Skills Plan' to put a sharper focus on digital skills in higher education.
Yet, it is wrong for the industry to wholly put the blame at the door of the educators. As it stands, employers themselves are failing to channel young people's interests and talent in the field. Many do not have any entry-level cyber-security roles. Rather, most promote from within (72%), providing internal training as necessary, or recruit externally (53%) for seasoned security professionals.
To solve the problem, more should be done at an employer-level to encourage young people to choose cyber-security careers. Even among IT security professionals, 27% admit that organisations themselves must do more to offer training and graduate schemes.
There is a skills gap that needs to be addressed by both industry and education if we are to enthuse young people about entering the cyber-security workplace. This generation is closer to technology than any before, and will run rings around the industry soon enough, escalating the threat of cybercrime if they are not brought onside and given opportunities to blossom. It is important that we work together to ensure that their talent is harnessed and nurtured for society's good.
Interested in a career in cyber-security? Talent Lab is an international competition for university students and young professionals aged 18-30 that encourages talent to find innovative solutions to various cyber-security challenges. The top prizes include a $10,000 grant towards further education, participation at Cannes Lions, and an invitation to the Security Analyst Summit (SAS). More information here: https://academy.kaspersky.com/talentlab/