December 15, 2011

Learning to Hack

An interesting article is available on National Defence Magazine, addressing the shortage of personnel skilled enough to protect critical government and military networks against cyber attacks and cyber incidents. In order to overcome the problem, the U.S. Defense Department is looking at recruiting Internet security experts from military academies, and then putting these young men and women in pertinent roles when they enter their respective services.
We’ve been doing this longer than the Army has thought it important,” said Lt. Col. David Raymond, who teaches a senior cybersecurity capstone course at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. About 30 information technology, computer science and electrical engineering majors take the course each year. “But very few of these guys go into cybersecurity positions,” Raymond said. “The Army is just now trying to figure out what the right career path is for someone who graduates with a cybersecurity focus. That may be changing in the near future,” he said. Officials at U.S. Army Cyber Command are investigating if there should be a branch or functional area that allows the service to take a newly minted lieutenant with a suitable background and place him in a cybersecurity role immediately, he explained.
From a classroom on their Annapolis campus, a group of freshmen “plebes” and their professor recently sniffed out open computer ports around the world to take control of webcams, moving them around and peering into lives of strangers thousands of miles away. Far from a primer on voyeurism, these students were being taught a lesson about the dangers of the Internet and how keeping a port open is like leaving a backdoor unlocked for a burglar. If they want to learn how to protect critical networks, these future sailors and Marines have to know what it takes to bring them down, said their instructor Navy Capt. Steven “Doc” Simon.
These kids grew up with smartphones and computers in their houses. One school of thought says we aren’t going to be able to teach these kids anything, because they know it all already,” Simon said. “What we came to find out was these guys are outstanding computer users. They know Facebook, they know Google, they can do stuff with their phones . . . But they don’t really know, with the exception of a very small number, what’s going on behind the curtain.
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