The Week In Review 1st July

stuart-wilkesIt is often said that, ‘politics is a serious business’. Making decisions that will effect individuals and businesses alike for years if not generations, in both positive and not so positive ways, brings with it a responsibility that few of us would be openly willing to shoulder.

As the political landscape in here in the UK undergoes a seismic shift, many commentators have stated that some of the individuals behind the recent referendum campaigns have been seeing it all as a big game and not fully understanding the ramifications of their actions. Would they have been better to have not essentially ‘gamified’ politics? Or does playing games actually help with developing a greater understanding for a particular issue? There is no doubt about it that the games that have been played out in the political sphere has had one hugely positive outcome, and that is that voters across the country, old and young, are getting actively engaged in politics and political debate.

The concept of gamification, which employs gaming mechanics to deal with non-gaming situations, is being used progressively in the world of technology to drive engagement with a particular subject or technology, especially cyber security. The website thenextweb.com discussed four ways that gamification is advancing cybersecurity this week.

They pointed out that as data breaches continue to grow in size, numbers and severity at the same time as a talent gap for cyber security professionals widens, that gamification can assist. They comment that the multinational professional services organisation PWC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) are supporters of gamification across their wide client base and point to their own solution called ‘Game Of Threats’, a cyber threat simulation, that is designed to simulate the speed and complexity of an actual cyber breach.

However simulations and games are just that; games, so their effect is purely for learning and awareness raising. What if these games couple be coupled with real time, real world cyber attacks that are occurring around the globe? Could that happen? Maybe one day, but the company FireEye, who provide a wide range of cyber security products and services, have on their website a ‘Live Cyber Threat’ map, that to the casual observer does look like a game – but it’s not.

Designed to look like something out of a situation room in a disaster movie, this compelling visual shows streaks across the globe as a small country in Asia launches a cyber attack on an unassuming European nation bordering the Mediterranean. It keeps a running total of all the attacks identified that day, which runs into tens of thousands, and lists the Top 5 industries from the last 30 days that are being targeted.

With a ticker style notification system at the top, constantly being updated, it’s hard to believe that this is not a game, or an animation. Could PwC take this data and integrate into their game, asking the people they are training to make real time decisions? Would that sharpen the mind further to the genuine global risk of cyber threat?

One sector of the cyber world that possibly started out just having fun; hackers; are actually moving the other way and professionalising their organisations. In the past many hackers would take down systems just for a badge of honour, bragging rights to be used to bolster their standing within the hacker community, but no longer.

As Computer Business Review illustrated this week, hacking has become a lucrative business and can get massive returns on small investments. They point out that the hackers now act like genuine organisations and are building ecosystems in order to move forward. In some cases, they have business support functions such as Human Resources, in order to recruit the right people with the right skill, they have operational management structures and finance teams to make sure that their revenue flows.

If that wasn’t enough, they also have R&D departments, who are developing new techniques, new technologies in order to stay one step ahead of the multi-billion-dollar cyber security market. They will undoubtedly continue this mirroring of business structures in order to capitalise on the increased opportunities for them as the interconnected world and its number of connected devices increase.

We can treat cyber security like a game, as you can treat politics like a game, however at the end of each and every cyber crime is a victim. Somebody who loses money or personal data that leads to genuine hardship. Games can be fun, but cyber security is not a game, it’s a very serious business.

For links to all these stories and more, or to contribute with some comments join us by searching for the National Cyber Skills Centre on our social channels of FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter, or just click the relevant links from our website.

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