Increasing number of scams, hacking Facebook accounts and stealing money online seems to be a routine affair in the 21st century. With the latest advancements pushing Indian people to access their bank accounts through phones, the risks of being a victim to online attacks are even higher. This not only costs a huge amount to the victim organisation but also creates the risk of compromising users’ privacy and trust which may eventually lead to the downfall of Digital India.
Defending our country from cyber attacks requires skilled professionals. It’s now time to ask, are we producing enough security professionals? Or do the developers still consider security as a secondary add-on to their product? The reality is, our country lacks skilled Cyber Security professionals. Our government employs a mere 556 cyber security professionals in stark contrast to China’s whopping 1.2 lakh cyber security professionals. Which means we do not have sufficient human resources to identify malwares, to predict the possibility of an attack, to verify the integrity of system or to do security testing of the infrastructure.
A recent report has revealed that a minuscule 0.6% of graduate students are currently working in cyber security. These statistics strengthen the belief held by many industry experts that the cause of the skills gap originates from schools.
In order to encourage the youth to participate, they need to be taught at a young age about the importance of cyber security and both its aspects - attack and defence, because if you do not know how to attack, then you will not know what to expect and you do not know how to defend.
Several research efforts by computer security experts from across the world suggest that Capture the Flag style contests are a highly effective method to teach computer security. Many countries such as the United States of America and China have realised that cyber security preparedness is pivotal for a good position in terms of development on the global stage and have started conducting Capture The Flag contests for high school students to train them from a young age. An example is picoCTF hosted exclusively for high school students in the USA. This contest is organised by one of the top CTF teams from the USA and is supported by several US government organisations such as National Science Foundation.
Having realised the dire need for such a training culture in India, Amrita University is organising Junior InCTF - an online Capture the Flag style contest specifically designed to introduce cyber security awareness and training in high school students. It is a simplified version of InCTF, Indian Capture The Flag, a national level ethical hacking contest that Amrita university hosts every year, for promoting cyber security awareness and training for college students in India. Now with Junior InCTF, we are pushing the boundaries of conventional wisdom by taking up school students and giving them career changing experience and exposure in a field filled with opportunities. Considering the ubiquitous nature of the field and the need for knowledge in cyber security a requirement in just about any profession, the contest will be useful to all students.
Contest has already started, registration for the contest is online at our website, junior.inctf.in. Registrants will be given access to challenges from different areas of Security such as Web Exploitation, Binary exploitation, Reverse engineering, Forensics, Cryptography. This competition aims in making students learn about security in a game based approach.
We will also conduct week long workshops for the top students in Junior InCTF and train them thoroughly in cyber security concepts and practices - with a view to arouse their interest in this field as a career option. The university has already conducted two editions of the workshop - called Cyber Gurukulam - in December 2014 and May 2015 and plans to conduct more such workshops for school students in future.
Developing skills in the area of cyber security opens up a whole new range of career opportunities for skilled graduates. Today graduates with expertise in cyber security are in great demand for the positions of security analysts in top private computer firms in India. Of course, apart from the private computer firms the Electronic and Computer Science Division of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) which is the government wing that currently handles the national cyber security, is also in need of individuals with skills, agility and a fresh and updated outlook at cyber security.
With this in mind and having understood the need to raise India’s cyber security standards, Amrita has decided to lead the way for a new generation of students, not just interested in the field of cyber security, but also wishing to choose it as a career path. Foreseeing the befall of a humongous cyber plague in the near future, this is a roll call for yet another Indian army of cyber elites.