The Week In Review 20th May

stuart-wilkesFrom the latter part of the 1970s for about a decade,  broadcast TV did have some strange things beaming out from it. Things that when you look back on them still seem to have a healthy dose of ‘odd’ about them. ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’, for those of you that may remember it (or have been trying to forget about it) was one such offering. Each episode of this series had sinister overtones, but with was punctuated with wry comic elements and always had a twist at the end. It was a TV show that just didn’t appear to act like a TV show should. It left the viewer feeling just slightly confused, perhaps ill at ease, but definitely unsure of exactly what they just witnessed.

If you have never had that feeling, then it will be generated by a few of the cyber headlines that have garnered attention over the last few days. Upon hearing the news that more cybersecurity professionals are going to be trained is usually universally welcomed, however when the training provider is Facebook, the social networking behemoth, it demands a second look. Love or loathe Facebook it has changed the world. Depending on your view point it is either the greatest force of information democratisation, dissemination and commentary or the largest waste of time in history. What they plan to do is open up their security training platform to high school and college pupils alike. They want to gamify (the application of typical elements of game playing e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) security research.

Although this style of research is not entirely new, it has been occurring at many tech conferences for years, it is now going mainstream and being seen as a valid teaching and learning strategy. Will this work and enthuse a new generation of IT professional focusing on security? Well ask anybody who cut their teeth on a BBC B Computer, a Commodore 64, or a Sinclair Spectrum back in 1980s and see what profession they ended up in. Rarely does Facebook get applauded for its efforts, but in this case congratulations are valid.

When life is all said and done and you depart this life, your time here on the third rocks from the sun maybe encapsulated on a headstone for future generations to tend. How many ways are there of saying devoted partner and parent, or gone too early, in our minds and hearts forever? Distilling down an individual’s lifelong contribution to a statement shorter than the average tweet is horribly underwhelming. The former head of the National Security Agency in the US, Michael Hayden, has just done the equivalent for the cybersecurity industry.

Despite the millions of jobs, billions in investment it can all be described in one single mathematical equation : Risk = threat x vulnerability x consequence : Calculating risk in business is not new, the insurance industry is based on calculating risk, but this is the first time I have seen it applied directly to cybersecurity. “Most of the history of what we call cybersecurity has been in that middle factor—vulnerability reduction,” Hayden is quoted as saying and according to Fortune magazine to that rest of us that means maintaining firewalls, perimeter barricades, software patches, and good passwords. In other words, stop the bad guys from getting in. Reduce the attack surface. Fortify. See it’s simple and we all thought that cybersecurity was complicated.

Hackers are rarely out of the technology news; weather they are white hat hackers (good guys) or black hat hackers (bad guys) they go about their work with continued caffeine fueled vigor. But even hackers are not impervious to cybersecurity issues as they themselves are under threat, from hackers! In a story that appears to be like a fractal image or an infinity mirror the BBC reported on how the email addresses of 470,000 members of a hacking website had been leaked online following a major data breach. The information that was leaked also included millions of forum posts and private messages that detailed illegal activities. We have all heard of cyberwar, maybe this is cyber civil war especially as initial reports state that some of the data could be used to work out members’ identities, something that you would have thought that hackers would take every step possible to conceal.

Maybe it is time to reboot Tales Of The Unexpected and set it in the world of cyber security. There is no doubt that there are plenty of story lines and plot twists out there and many of them, like this week, would leave even the most ardent IT professional slightly bemused.

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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