International Youth Day 2019: Young people and cybersecurity

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Of the eight billion people in the world, around a quarter are between the ages of 10 to 24 – the largest youth population that has ever existed. And with today representing the UN’s International Youth Day – an awareness day focused on young people as ‘essential partners in change’ – ESET is looking at the huge impact that young people can have in the cybersecurity industry and how we can encourage them to get involved.

The dramatic skills gap in the cybersecurity industry is well-documented, with one report predicting that there will be around 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021. It’s a hugely important topic to address considering the rise in cybersecurity attacks. A recent article from The Times stated that every 50 seconds there is one British company experiencing a cyber-attack and then went on to emphasize the warnings from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) highlighting that “it’s a matter of when, not if, a crippling attack is delivered”. Yet there simply aren’t enough experts. In light of this, many companies are looking to young people to become part of the solution and are spearheading a range of initiatives to involve them in the cybersecurity fight.

Working in cybersecurity represents a big opportunity for the young people themselves. Not only does it allow them to make a tangible difference to an important industry and the world in general, they can also enjoy a lucrative career at the forefront of the latest advances in technology. So, what kinds of things are companies and governments doing to pique young people’s interest in a career fighting hackers?

A number of companies are running prestigious events in the style of ‘cybersecurity bootcamps’, where the best and brightest of today’s youths are invited to learn about the industry. Other similar programs sponsored by governments are taking place around the world such as the CyberFirst program run by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre. This centre offers its own CyberFirst courses along with a broad range of other activities ranging from apprenticeship schemes, a ‘CyberFirst Girls’ competition and even an online extracurricular program called ‘Cyber Discovery’.

There is no doubt that these programs are important in encouraging and attracting young people to consider a cybersecurity career, but as an article from The Times lays out there are still more radical and new ideas to take it a step further. The article discussed why ‘Young people should do national cyberservice’ and was penned by Elizabeth Braw of the Royal United Services Institute, a British defence and security think tank. Braw looked at the reasoning behind pioneering a national cyberservice where the most talented young people are given superior training in order to create an ‘experts corps to be deployed during crises’. It’s an innovative idea not yet embarked upon in any government’s cybersecurity division, although a similar system does exist in Norway’s armed forces. While bold, this could be a highly effective way to source the best talent in a complex sector.

International Youth Day is a reminder that there is a huge resource of young people to be tapped into around the world. However they decide to do it, private companies and governments need to find a way to attract the best and brightest of today’s youth in order to safeguard the cybersecurity industry and the world at large.

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