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Talent key to cyber-security, say experts

By He Wei in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-15 09:07

Threats to cybersecurity continue to grow, and the global society needs bold ideas and innovations to address these challenges. [Photo/IC]

Cultivation of cybersecurity talent will depend on collaboration among industry, academia and the government, as China pushes for new ideas and novel solutions to address potential online threats, according to industry experts.

Threats to cybersecurity continue to grow, and the global society needs bold ideas and innovations to address these challenges, said Lyu Yiping, director of the Keen Security Lab of Tencent, an in-house cybersecurity research arm.

"It is an era in which the world we live in depends on network connections in everything we do… this is a team sport that requires building a community of people to manage risks," he said.

Lyu made the remarks at Tencent's cybersecurity contest in Shanghai last month. The competition, known as Tencent Capture The Flag, is an occasion to attract the best young experts specialized in detecting software vulnerabilities and protecting systems from the threat of malicious actors.

With cybercriminals like organized hacking groups causing losses of billions of dollars every year, the need for individuals capable of securing networks against attackers has never been greater.

China's information security industry is projected to reach 100 billion yuan ($14.6 billion) in sales this year, according to the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute.

But that might come to pass only if certain problems are overcome. For instance, data from the Cyberspace Administration of China last year suggested the country currently lacks more than 700,000 cybersecurity professionals. That number is expected to double by 2020.

Education and training programs can give students the opportunity to build relevant skill sets. One common approach is to use cybersecurity competitions, which allow students to gain experience working as a team and confront others realistically in simulated cybersecurity situations, Lyu said.

With the advent of technologies such as 5G, cybersecurity can take on new forms like internet of things and vehicle-to-everything, said Jiang Kaida, vice-director of the Network and Information Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

"The competitions offer students the chance to experience challenges modeled on real-world situations and progress with the times."

Contests, he said, allow students to build practical skills while improving their ability to work as teams in a fast-paced, adversarial environment.

Such contests, together with other hands-on learning opportunities, can help students develop problem-solving and analytical skills, which are deemed critical and sought after by employers, said Chen Chen, an internet security researcher of Fudan University.

The future would require joint efforts across the private sector, research institutions and the government in organizing similar events and promoting the exchange of personnel.

For instance, certain Tencent contest winners were immediately offered full-time jobs at Tencent Keen Security Lab. Others received offers for well-paid jobs from leading internet firms.

"Successful programs have been a combination of private companies and academia-companies are providing universities with insights into certain areas where it is difficult to find talent, and academia is developing the curricula to address the deficit," said Chris Hall, an analyst at global consultancy PwC.

The Cyberspace Administration of China has encouraged security and internet companies to increase cooperation initiatives with educational institutions.

In response to the policies, software firm Qihoo 360 has established security laboratories and partnerships with numerous universities and institutions, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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