When tapping youths for national cyberwarfare programs, countries should take the screening process seriously to ensure only the best are recruited, and form partnerships with the private sector to mentor youths and give them access to technologies, industry watchers note.
Recruiting youths for a national cyberarmy is a 'great' strategy, in an age where people are becoming more technology savvy and are taking computer classes at younger ages, David Maman, founder and CTO of security firm GreenSQL, observed.
His comments come after Israel announced last week it was developing a national program which trains outstanding young people aged between 16 and 18 years old for cyberwarfare, to boost its ability to deal with the increasing number of online attacks.
While Israel is not the first country to have cyberwarfare units, with Japan, India, China, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia previously announcing similar concepts, Israel was the first country to announce public recruitment of youths for its program.
This program will definitely assist the country in making better usage of its youth's intellectual possibility, Israel-based Maman explained. When youths are recruited at a young age, the country has the privilege of educating them younger so they have a more deeply rooted understanding of the security landscape, Maman explained.
Youths between the age of 15 to 18 have also grown up in the age of Internet evolutionand view security issues differently from the older generation aged 30 and above, Maman added. As such, they bring a newer, fresher perspective to the table, he said.
Need to screen properly, tapping on partnerships
The key element is to find the "best young minds" within the nation, Luis Corrons, senior technical director of Panda Security's PandaLabs, observed.
For countries where governmental control is tighter, it may be easier to select young talents, as people with certain skills will be recruited for specific tasks when they are in school, he explained. However, in more democratic countries, this should be done with programs that attract the interest of youths such as contests, Corrons added.
Agreeing, Maman advised it was hence important to make it clear it is not a general call for whoever interested in joining, because only the extremely talented and gifted youths will be accepted into the program.
Maman added that partnerships with the private sectors will give the youths access to technologies as well as the appropriate guidance to working as cybersecurity professionals at a young age.
"With the proper tools and guidance, young people can become a really good asset for any country willing to create their own cyber command," the GreenSQL CTO said.
In Asia, the South Korean military and Korea university in 2011, signed an agreement to set up a cyberdefense program aimed specifically at training students in cyber warfare to combat virtual threats from North Korea. Singapore Polytechnic last week too, launched a Cyber Wargame Center jointly open with local technology vendors to train and equip students in cyberdefense skills by immersing students in an environment to deal with real life security scenarios.
Collaborating with other countries however, may be difficult, as it would depend on inter-country alliances as well as the level of trust among them, Corrons added.
For example, it would be easier for military organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to start such a program since all the countries participating are already allies, but more difficult for a country to independently approach others for collaboration on the cyber warfare program, he said.