A series of national cybersecurity competitions will begin later this year, with the aim of fostering the security skills needed by the UK's IT industry.
The Cyber Security Challenge (CSC) was announced on Tuesday at the Infosecurity Europe 2010 conference in London. It is backed by the Cabinet Office, the Metropolitan Police, the Office of Cyber Security and the Information Assurance Advisory Council, as well as bodies such as the Information Security Awareness Forum and private-sector companies such as QinetiQ and Field Fisher Waterhouse.
The programme is intended to help address a long-term deficiency in the professional security skills being delivered by current training conditions, the CSC said. It will target school leavers and undergraduate students.
"We need to excite, inspire and stimulate fresh interest in a career as a cybersecurity specialist. The competitions we are developing will do exactly that," said CSC director Judy Baker in a statement.
The competitions, which are still in development, will be structured into several rounds. The first will cover internet-based challenges in areas such as network defence, forensics and finding security bugs in website code, the CSC said.
This will be followed by a second round that could include a series of face-to-face competitions, which would allow successful contestants to demonstrate a level of skill that could lead to professional opportunities, the CSC said. Winners could gain scholarships and access to training courses and mentoring.
The UK challenge is in partially modeled on the US Cyber Challenge. This was launched last year to identify secondary school and university students who have high levels of computer security skill and to help them gain scholarships and professional opportunities.
The Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP) said the programme is designed to help professionalise the information security industry.
"We see huge value in working with the industry to create an environment for cybersecurity professionals where employers with a need and employees with relevant skills are identified and introduced, and are subsequently provided with professional career paths," said IISP chief executive Gerry O'Neill in the statement
A study conducted by the Sans Institute on behalf of the CSC found that 90 percent of the 255 information security professionals interviewed said it was difficult to recruit for cybersecurity positions. Sixty percent of the respondents said they expect more security professionals will be needed to deal with the increasing danger of security threats.