For all their virtual achievements, gamers aren’t exactly feted for their real-life usefulness; however, the gaming community is proving supremely valuable in the world of technology.
According to a study by (ISC)², there is a projected global shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity staff by 2020.
UK Chancellor George Osborne addressed this in his autumn speech at the GCHQ intelligence agency, declaring that “training the next generation of coders is vital – both for our economy and our security.”
In response to the Paris terror attacks, the UK government has announced it will hire 1,900 more spies to combat ISIS and other terrorist organizations, boosting the total number of British intelligence staff by 15 percent to nearly 15,000.
The lack of cybersecurity talent to protect us is a real concern, and the intelligence agency is turning to video games to plug the skills gap.
Cybersecurity: the next generation
This year’s Cyber Security Challenge UK saw 42 of the UK’s most talented amateur code-breakers lead the defense against a simulated cyber terrorist plot to unleash a biological attack on the grounds of Westminster Abbey at a high profile event.
The candidates had to take control of the building’s environmental control system, all while working to real world ethical and legal guidelines. Sound familiar, gamers?
Founded six years ago, the Cyber Security Challenge has helped attract more and more talented people who aren’t necessarily following a career in cybersecurity.
And it’s worked. The winner of the very first challenge was a postman who ended up working in cybersecurity for Royal Mail.
Funded by the Cabinet Office, this first challenge was a massively multiplayer online game, where members of the public from all age groups could participate and crack codes in cybersecurity games.
If they solved the complicated puzzle, competitors were invited to full-day hackathons, eventually rising to the final master class competitions.
“The next generation of cybersecurity talent is likely to come from the gaming environment, so we have to reach them in their own environment.” Bob Nowill, director of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, as quoted by Techworld.
More than 50 percent of this year’s competitors identified as gamers. The combination of technical curiosity, problem solving skills, competitiveness and desire for peer recognition makes gamers perfect for careers in cybersecurity.
Playing action games in moderation can strengthen cognitive function and facilitate the brain’s ability to interpret situations, according to research by the University of Rochester.
Incredibly, when scientists let gamers play with proteins, they discovered how to fold them in novel confirmations. A structure of a protein found in an AIDS-like monkey virus that had stumped scientists for over a decade was cracked by gamers in less than three weeks.
With an estimated 30 million gamers united by a common interest of solving plots and problems, Britain’s security agency is certainly looking in the right place for cyber-fighters.
How can we all reach a higher level of cyber maturity?
Good old Moore’s law. Despite fears that its computer chip predictions – which accurately state that processing power doubles every 18 months – would be disproved this time around, it’s come up trumps again.
Of course, as technology advances at turbo velocity, so do the criminal masterminds who take advantage of it – and we must stay ahead of the game.
Corporate governance recruitment consultants Barclay Simpson list the basic cyber-hygiene tips to follow; particularly important for today’s ‘work anywhere’ culture, who log in with multiple formats from a range of locations.
As stressed by the chancellor in his autumn speech: “The starting point must be that every British company is a target, that every British network will be attacked and that cybercrime is not something that happens to other people.” As our world becomes more connected, the demand for cybersecurity talent grows. It’s important, both in the UK and worldwide, to cultivate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to help us create a safer, more secure and more trusted Internet.
About the Author
Nina Cresswell is a journalist specializing in social media and digital strategy at White Horse Digital.