UK recruits “Xbox generation” youngsters for cyber war games

Pierluigi Paganini October 23, 2012

The future is now, I’ve often spoken about the enormous potentiality of gaming platforms and of the capabilities of young players, months ago I introduced a US project to develop an application to spy on gaming console all over the world gathering precious information on their owners.

The control of a gaming console could be used to spy on victim’s environment, today the gaming platform are equipped with cameras that could be an eye on user’s domestic environment.

But gaming console could be used also for recruiting purposes, Britain has recently announced a new spy recruitment program who wants to draw from the video game players, the term used to refer the world of video gamers is the “Xbox generation”.

The typical profile requested is young guy, without a university education but with a great attitude in the use of new social media and computer game skills of course.

Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency is looking for 100 new recruits to be involved in an apprenticeship program for the creation of a new generation of cyber spies. The announcement was made by Foreign Secretary William Hague during a conference at Bletchley Park.

“We face constant and growing threats from crime and attacks in cyberspace,”

“We want to step up our efforts to find the most talented people to help sustain and secure the UK’s code-breaking and cyber expertise for the future.”

“It will be the young innovators of this generation who will help keep our country safe in years to come against threats which are every bit as serious as some of those confronted in the Second World War.”

The mode of recruiting is revolutionary for UK government, in the past the secret agencies mainly drew from principal universities selecting most promising pupils, the must was the obtaining of A-level qualifications with strong capability in science and mathematics.

The campaign is clear opening to a new kind of professional, more oriented to the practice, a figure with a great familiarity with cyber tools that follow the trend already introduced by other countries such as China.

No wonder if the particular qualities of that boys were taken to the creation of new legions of hackers trained using the most advanced methods and involved in cyber operations, this is the future, and thanks to the young talents governments intend to preside over the cyber space. These new skills are not taught at the university, the chosen ones will have to show great passion for the cyber security, high elasticity and mental aptitude to work for objectives … exactly as they do when they play with their console, passing level by level.

Of course the recruiting program is intensive, recruits will spend two years at GCHQ studying cyber security and engineering, consider that UK has a primary role in the cyber space and it is considered one of the nation with major investments for the improvement of cyber capabilities.

The training schedule includes a foundation degree course in communications, security and engineering at De Montfort University in Leicester and specific study for a level 4 diploma in IT specific for software, web and telecommunications professional competence.

UK Government has established an extra investment to develop deterrents to hostile malware and hackers that amount to 650M £ in 2012.

A foreign Office spokeswoman declared:

“If the UK is to maintain a leading role on cyber issues to enhance the UK’s economic growth, we must harness experts from the ‘Xbox generation’ who have grown up with a world of social media, global connectivity and interactive gaming,”

The way to conduct an attack is profoundly changed and also the simulation of conflict that appear similar to a video games, and youngsters are very familiar with them.

Foreign Secretary William Hague declared that UK is victim of an escalation of cyber attacks of any type, from cyber espionage to offensives that aim to disrupt infrastructure, communications and satellite systems:

“not an hour goes by when a system in the UK is not being attacked”, he said

Hague is convinced that the majority of attacks are state-sponsored, organized groups hit strike government networks representing a serious cyber threat for UK’s security and economic competitiveness.

Recently Pacific Command organized a series of exercise in war-games style on a 7-inch-high box with NATO and other international partners to verify the reliability of the communication channels during a cyber attack. The goal of this exercise is to ensure communication between entities in case of attacks.

In other simulation dedicated appliances are intentionally infected to verify the response of an infrastructure to the diffusion of a malicious agent.

We can describe dozen of similar exercises made all over the world made by different cyber units, in each of them a team acts as attackers and another as defender, in the middle we locate the entities representing population and vital services of a countries.

Scope of the simulations is to evaluate the impact of cyber operations on the defense system and also on the “middle” entities trying to detect possible flaws in computer systems and response procedures.

In this scenario it is simple to understand how much important is the introduction of youngsters experts of video games and simulations, how fundaments is the role of hackers in today cyber warfare,  these figures are crucial to develop and test capabilities of a countries and also to conduct a cyber offensive ….

UK Government … passed with flying colors for the initiative.

Pierluigi Paganini

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