Stereotypical hacker image is damaging the UK cyber security industry

Britain is struggling to recruit the best talent in cyber security because of the negative stereotypes surrounding computer hackers, industry experts say.

The message comes within a wider warning that the UK’s cyber defences may be suffering because students are put off the profession by the image of the sun-starved, socially inept computer nerd, City AM reports.

Experts spoke out on the issue at the recent launch of Cyber 9/12, an annual cyber security competition for university students, where emphasis fell on the industry’s search for workers with a broad range of skills beyond standard technical competence.

Pete Cooper is a senior fellow at Washington-based think tank, Atlantic Council. Mr Cooper told City AM:

“At the moment, a lot of people think a cyber security skill is whether you can hack, whether you can build and defend a network, or whether you can analyse code. Those are all really important skills, but that’s only one element of what cyber security is.”

Experts also painted a picture of the kind of person a modern-day cyber professional should be, pointing out vital skills such as communication, ethics and social skills.

The recruitment problem is set against a background of concern about a cyber security skills gap, as the sector faces an uphill struggle against constant technological evolution and the ever-growing shadow of cyber crime.

The wider context is “verging on a crisis” a recent parliamentary inquiry concluded, following a report published by industry research group, Cybersecurity Ventures, which forecasts a 3.5m global job hole in cyber security within two years’ time.

For the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the government group in charge of issuing cyber security guidance and support, recruiting the right talent is part of an everyday struggle.

Speaking to City AM, the NCSC said that reaching out to individuals with a more comprehensive skill set may be a way of overcoming the worker shortage the industry currently faces.

Paul Chichester, NCSC director for operations, told City AM:

“The thing about the skills shortage is if you’re only tapping into a fraction of the graduate community or the school community in the Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) world, you’re already self-limiting.
“Actually, what we find is some of the best people we have have a much more diverse set of skills,” he added.

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