Don't panic, residents of the U.S. of A., your interWeb is safe: Soon 10,000 young cyber warriors will be bravely donning their unifo... uh, T-shirts, and clambering into their cockpi... uh, desks, ready to defend your networks from the bad guys.
Or something like that. Concerned that network security will have to be beefed up as the potential for a future cyber war mounts, the DoD, in collaboration with academics and industry, is planning to recruit 10,000 people to cyber security posts. Specifically the group's looking for "young Americans with the skills to fill the ranks of cyber security practitioners, researchers and warriors." And the Center for Strategic and International Studies (a partner in the program) goes on to note "some will become the top guns" in their field.
How does the program plan to find these people, short of spinning the affair with a horribly gung-ho military theme? By promoting three different competitions as one big Cyber Challenge. There's the CyberPatriot Defense competition, run in national high schools by the Air Force Association, and designed to promote the understanding of network security for school kids—it's actually in its second year, but is being brought under the Cyber Challenge umbrella.
Next up is the DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge, which sets teams specific tasks that might face a cyber crime analyst—decrypting password-less files and the like. The DoD's especially interested in this, and is offering a $1 million prize to people who can find solutions to digital forensics problems that currently can't be solved. Then there's NetWars, a virtual capture-the-flag game played across a network on a custom OS, and with the aim of penetrating the opponent's net security and controlling key files on a server.
The whole Cyber Challenge affair is designed to spot promising candidates—these will be singled out, "their local papers will be told of their success" and they'll be invited to attend regional "cyber camps" at local colleges. Really high-fliers will get boosted chances for scholarships to study cyber defense, and the cream of the crop will get placements in corporations and federal agencies that deal with cyber warfare—though there's no guarantee of employment.
To me that all sounds a little creepy, but it's certainly an important issue. We're living in a world that relies on computer power, and cyber attacks are a real and rising threat—ably demonstrated by the recent spate that seemed to come from North Korea. Apparently there is a shortage of people interested in network security, similar to the shortage of scientists the U.S. faced in the 1950s. And targeting young people, raising their interest and ultimately recruiting some of them is certainly how the military fills its ranks.