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New online academy aims to make cybersecurity attractive to everyone


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Although the concept of security has long intrigued the minds of many politicians, academics and the like, cybersecurity remains a new, under-researched, yet important area.

Now, a new online training platform launching next week in the UK aims to make cybersecurity roles more attractive to everyone, regardless of their background.

Cyberattacks have plagued organisations all over the world more and more often. A global cyberattack hit governments and Russia, Britain and the US at the end of June this year. Thousands of passwords of British ministers, senior policemen and ambassadors were stolen by Russian hackers and traded online around the same time.

And sadly, there are simply not enough people to deal with these threats: “Industry relies heavily on tech products to reduce risk,” says Hadley, CEO of Immersive Labs, the UK company behind the new platform – the Digital Cyber Academy.

However, new tech isn’t always the solution. What that sector is currently in need of is people from non-technical backgrounds who could bring fresh perspectives to what is as much a people problem as a computer one.

Hadley used to teach cybersecurity, and thinks that students with a wider range of experience would inject new ideas. He says that anyone good at analysing a situation, troubleshooting and problem-solving – or simply with perseverance and curiosity – fits the bill.

“A strong grasp of the technology is valuable, but it’s by no means sufficient,” says Andrew Martin, director of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security at the University of Oxford. “Decades of vulnerabilities in popular software products tell us that good software engineers can screw things up quite badly.”

The Digital Cyber Academy is aimed at UK students (you can sign up here), offering a wide range of courses, from beginner to advanced. The exercises will wield scores, which will go on a leaderboard, from which companies will then be able to pick suitable candidates. Of course, the platform will be constantly updated due to the nature of the subject.

The ultimate aim of the platform is to address entrenched preconceptions about cybersecurity.

“That was hugely frustrating,” says Hadley. “We’re trying to remove these misconceptions.” He says that music has formal patterns and logic that align quite well with cybersecurity. “Many in cybersecurity are self-taught,” he says. “We want to encourage that behaviour.”

Martin agrees. “Many cybersecurity issues arise from the realities of human nature or the way we organise society,” he says. Fixing them requires a diverse set of skills. “The ideal security director is a polymath.”

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