The schoolchildren trained in cyber warfare

A new generation of school-aged cyber defenders have competed in a cyber security championship organised by defence giant Northrop Grumman, as the industry looks to youth to fill a worrying skills gap. Rosanna Philpott reports.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (Reuters) – It’s a complex, destructive and evolving threat.

But the skills gap to fight hacking is equally as vast.

Here to fill the hole: 14 year old schoolboy Otto from London and his generation of cyber defenders.

OTTO HEESE, PARTICIPANT,

“One of the areas I think you really do need more cyber security involvement is the Internet of Things (IoT) and you see this a lot with developing areas. People just rush forward to develop technology like an internet-enabled smart fridge. They don’t actually consider the security considerations because they don’t have an awareness that the smart fridge could be hacked.”

This room of teenage coders are defending a drone food delivery company against malicious hackers.

None of it’s real, though – they’re all contestants in a cybersecurity championship.

The prize could be an internship with the organiser: US defense giant and stealth bomber manufacturer Northrop Grumman.

DIANE MILLER, NORTHROP GRUMMAN,

“We need far more defenders to ward off against these more complex cyber threats, and it’s coming from everywhere and it’s rapidly evolving. So there’s a lot of sense of urgency in getting children more interested in this field.”

Even if they don’t win, skills like these open doors in cyber defence, architecting cyber solutions, or forensics.

Good news for the cyber security industry – where Northrop Grumman say 1.5 million jobs will go unfilled in the next year.

Or, as Otto’s teacher says, they could always create their own company.

CHRIS HARRISON, TEACHER,

“Twenty years ago Google didn’t exist. It was two guys at college that started it; and Apple, 40 years ago didn’t exist, it was two guys in their garage. It’s very much a (case of) ‘Why should I work for someone else? I can do the stuff that I’m interested in’, and while this does look good for their CV and so, they’re doing it because it’s interesting.”

A new generation dealing with a new era of threats