Last year, major news outlets reported computer hackers had stolen top-secret plans for the Pentagon’s latest warplane, the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Inside sources said it was the Chinese who accessed data about the fighter’s stealth technology, but that country’s embassy denied any involvement.
And even though the Department of Defense later claimed the stolen data wasn’t classified, the episode reinforced what technology experts had been trying to tell the U.S. government for years: your sensitive information is vulnerable.
A new crop of cyber-warriors training to overcome those vulnerabilities completed a week-long training course in Dover Aug. 13, where they set the stage for careers in what’s expected to be a booming industry.
The program, hosted by Wilmington University’s Dover branch, was one of three held across the country as part of the 2010 U.S. Cyber Challenge.
In response to high-profile incidents like the F35 debacle, digital security experts from government and the private sector created the Cyber Challenge to seek out the technicians who will advance digital security technology.
“The government did a study and there’s about 1,500 to 2,000 people that have these skills.
They want to have 20 to 30,000 people in this field,” said Dover resident and Cyber Challenge contender Ashley Jensen.
Jensen was one of 20 Dover challenge participants who spent the week exploring cyber security and analytics, as well as cyber forensics — the process of backtracking and piecing together a digital crime after it’s happened.
Cyber Challenge creator Alan Paller is the director of the SANS Institute, a cyber security research and training firm.
He said governments and businesses are playing catch-up in terms of the number of trained technicians who can handle serious digital security.
“We are in deep stuff, and we’re in such deep stuff that climbing out is going to be hard,” he said. “It’s entirely skills based, it’s not tools based. We don’t have a pipeline.”
Delaware Sen. Tom Carper has used his Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security subcommittee to advance legislation that would force the government to update its cyber security protocols and protections.
Carper said recognizing the threat to the nation’s sensitive requires a new perspective.
“When people wanted to steal money out of a bank, they’d rob a bank, they’d go in with guns blazing,” he said. “Now, they’ve figured out how to hack these financial institutions.”
Jensen, who hasn’t been in the information technology field long, said solving crimes like those is exciting.
“I like the security side of it,” he said. “It’s a puzzling thing sometimes, I like putting the pieces together.”
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