Combating the Cyber Skill Shortage

Cyphinx and the Cyber Security Challenge

Wherever you look, there are articles espousing the desperate necessity for more skilled professionals in the cyber security industry. And no wonder! When you consider that a lack of cyber skills has been classed as the biggest problem faced by the IT industry for the last 4 years in a row*, doesn’t it seem like something weshould be discussing more?

It is predicted by the UK House of Lords Digital Skills Committee* that

“By 2017, there will be a shortage of 2 million cyber security jobs worldwide.”

With 46% of organisations expecting that a cyber-attack will strike them in 2015, this is a big concern*.

Alarmingly, whilst the demand for information security analysts is anticipated to grow 37% from 2012-2022, 35% of organisations are unable to fill open security jobs.

And shockingly, 44% of organisations confess to staff shortages when it comes to areas like networking and cyber security.  

“A perfect storm is enveloping the information security workforce with the resulting wake being a widening gap between the number of security professionals needed and the actual number available to be hired.” 

The 2015 (ISC) 2 Global Information Security Workforce Study

So what are we to do?

Currently, computer science and other IT relevant courses are estimated to have less than 5% of actual cyber skills content. Cyber security degrees are usually not technical enough for entry-level security positions, and they are also usually not technical enough for any entry-level positions in the computer field. This is a global concern, with 64% of high school students in the US without access to computer science classes or other classes which would help prepare them for a career in cyber security.

 Clearly, a new approach is not just necessary, it’s critical.


 This is why the UK government launched the Cyber Security Challenge, and its why, this September, they announced the launch of Cyphinx.

 “Education and training, in the context of a lifelong learning perspective, are an indispensable means for promoting adaptability and employability.”

 Robert Verrue, Director General Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities*

 Available 24/7, this 3D virtual skyscraper allows promising programmers (aged 12 and over) to create avatars, interact with others and participate in active  programming challenges and games. Scores get entered into a leader board for cyber security related disciplines such as risk analysis, forensic analysis, network  defence and ethics. This means that the best and the brightest up and coming cyber pros create what is, in effect, a digital CV.

 Prominent companies within the information security and programming sectors can create games and whole floors of the skyscraper can be branded – promoting awareness of career options and facilitating engagement with top level employers.

Backed by the Cabinet Office and other public and private sector sponsors including BT, Northrop Grumman, SANS Institute and Skyscape Cloud Services, the new Cyphinx challenge is intended to help build the essential cyber skills we sorely lack.

Featuring the first ever use of the Minecraft world to test cyber skills, Cyphinx is a play on demand environment. Solving puzzles and stopping “insiders” accessing valuable information, the challenge allows players to develop real world skills and almost certainly cross paths with some of the biggest employers – including AE Systems, Airbus, National Crime Agency, IRM, Raytheon, PWC, PGI,Bank of England, National Grid, HMGCC, and ProCheckUp.

 “The UK has a thriving digital economy so there’s a huge demand for people to join the cyber security profession and help protect our businesses. Government is committed to encouraging young people to consider cyber security as a career, and this new ‘virtual world’, developed by the Cyber Security Challenge, will help ensure the UK develops the cyber experts of the future.” 

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy*.