London Tech Week: Should we teach kids ethical hacking?

Just last week, a sophisticated espionage attack on cybersecurity company Kaspersky took most people by surprise and brought fears about cybercrime to new levels. If a top security company like Kaspersky can get hacked - then what hope is there for other companies?

This is what the panel have come to discuss at the Innovate Finance debate in Westminster, London: Catching the Big Phish. The audience is mainly comprised of banking professionals, some government representatives, education, and IT professionals. 

In his opening address, Lawrence Wintermeyer, CEO at Innovate Finance paints a grim picture, saying that “cybercrime costs £266 [$414] billion a year to the economy” and that “800 million people are impacted globally”.

In his keynote, David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Labs talks about the sheer scale of the threat landscape. He says that that in “1994 there was one new virus every hour” but now in 2015 “there’s 325,000 new samples everyday”.

Jamie Saunders, Director at National Cyber Crime Unit says: “We are reaching a bit of an inflection point here and some of the old tools used to protect businesses from the public are running out of steam.”

Jon Bartley, Partner at Penningtons Manches LLP, says companies are going to be more willing, in the next couple of years, to invest and pay for skills to sort this cybersecurity problem out.

“Staysure was fined £175,000 [$272,000] for failing to patch security vulnerabilities. This might be a relatively small fine when you compare it to the likes of Google. But I think over the next couple of years the risk will increase significantly. Individuals can claim damages if their personal data is affected by failure such as the one by Staysure.”

“The recent case against Google has established that as long as you are distressed and can show some sort of moral damage then that triggers the ability for some form of damages claim. What that will probably mean is that companies will be more willing to pay for the development of these skills, to make sure that their websites and servers are secure.”

So what can be done to improve the skills shortage in this area? One method is to recruit more young people into this area, in order to stir them “away from the dark side” and onto the right path.

Ollie Whitehouse, Associate Director at National Cyber Crime Group describes how his agency recruits around 25 graduates each year and enrols them on a six month program to teach them how to “ethically hack”.

“We have a girth of talent and we want to address that in a more comprehensive fashion,” he says.

For Ian Glover, President at CREST, there is no doubt that young people should be encouraged to get into ethical hacking.

“[It’s encouraging] to see young people be interested in technology and then try to focus their attentions on doings things that are legitimate and legal. We need to describe this as a career aspiration. There is a legitimate career path [for young people] in cybersecurity. We need to define what that career structure is, define the input and then drive people into that direction with some understanding of what their career structure is going to be. “

Will teaching kids ethical hacking open up a can of worms? 


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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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