Earlier this week, a simulated cyber terrorist strike took place at London’s BT Tower. The event—part of the UK government-backed Cyber Security Challenge—was designed to mimic a sophisticated cyber-attack and tested the ability of amateur contestants to defend the building’s power-supply from hackers. Those competing were selected following nine months of intensive assessments and the ten best from the day have been invited to compete in the grand final in March.
Real-life cyber attacks are becoming far more prevalent and we often find ourselves in a game of cat and mouse, trying to keep up with the perpetrators. These schemes are excellent for weeding out talented people who can help defend critical infrastructure from hackers—and may one day be part of thwarting potentially dangerous threats. Programs like these are great to see as they demonstrate that defending our boarders from cyber attacks is moving higher and higher up the political agenda.
However, we do need to be careful not to place too much credence on people alone. While a workman can never blame his tools, it is also imperative to have the right systems in place to help identify and remediate potential threats. There is now so much data passing through the networks of both private organizations and national infrastructure, that people alone cannot be the relied upon to identify when something is wrong.
Instead, security intelligence is paramount. These systems are designed to monitor networks constantly in order to spot anomalies—and can process far more information in real-time than any human being. There’s no doubt that we need the best people on the case, and events like this are an excellent way of finding them—let’s just also make sure they’re given the best possible tools to work with.