Discovering your inner hacker

New cyber security skills initiative throws open the field to all comers
Image: Stockfresh

24 April 2020

Even before the current public health crisis, there was a shortage of skilled cyber security professionals, not just in Ireland, but worldwide.

An important strategy in addressing that gap has been to attract people into the discipline who may have complementary skills from elsewhere. Along with technical skills, cyber security professionals need to be adaptive, open minded, able to employ lateral thinking and most importantly, have highly developed critical skills.

These are aptitudes which can be developed in all manner of disciplines, from human resources to business management and procurement. As such, the process of assessing an aptitude for cyber security in particular, can benefit from being made  available to a wide variety of individuals.




Aptitude testing

Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet, in partnership with Cyber Ireland and Zero Days, has designed a programme that allows people of all abilities to test their aptitude for a career in cyber security.

The Capture the Flag (CTF) series allows participants to hone their skills on practice tests, for those who may have some technical skills already, as well as those who have no significant technical skills, before going into live sessions where a team tackle scenarios in which real skills are developed.

The benefit of these sessions is twofold. Firstly, participants get to test themselves to find the relevant level from which to assess their aptitude for developing cyber security skills. Secondly, for those who may not wish to pursue a career, the exercises and tests allow them to develop a better understanding of cyber security issues and challenges, raising their overall awareness to protect themselves and their organisations.

The sessions are free, open to all and will entertain as well as inform.

“CTFs are available to everyone. Many challenges do not require technical or security knowledge and are simply a matter of problem solving and creative thinking. CTF events vary hugely in difficulty. For our events we offer two tracks running concurrently to cater for all abilities and skills levels,” said Dave Feenan, Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet manager.

During registration, the participants can specify whether they wish to go through a non-technical or a technical track.

The non-technical is suitable for all levels, especially those who do not consider themselves to have any IT background or skillset.

“These challenges will show you how easy it is for hackers to perform some of the more common attacks. Most of these challenges can be solved with just a web browser,” according to ICT Skillnet.

The technical track is for those who come from a technical background but may not necessarily have any specific security background.

“This track is particularly suited for those who consider themselves elite hackers or experienced developers, system administrators or network administrators etc.” say ICT Skillnet.

Team play

There is also the option to enter as a team.

“By far the best way to experience CTFs is to play as part of a team,” advises Eoin Byrne, Cyber Ireland cluster manager. “Challenges cover a wide range of topics and the more diverse mix of skillsets and backgrounds you have on a team, the better. Many eyes looking at a puzzle or problem always makes it easier to solve and you can learn so much from everyone on your team.”  

The CTF sessions take place on a Wednesday, with a portal available to registrants 48 hours in advance. The test portal allows participants to familiarise themselves with the type of challenges they face in CTF sessions, with each team having their own virtual room in which to collaborate for the event.

On registration, participants will have the opportunity to join up with friends or colleagues to form teams, or the organisers will help by forming teams with other participants on the day.

C-Suite appeal

With the emphasis on accessibility, ICT Skillnet is keen to encourage higher level participants too. Managerial and C-suite participants are actively encouraged to allow them to get a better understanding of the nature of cyber threats and the counter measures that are employed. Through participation it is hoped that the sessions can generally increase awareness of the issues, allowing participants to better protect themselves and their organisations.

The next session takes place on Wednesday 29 April, with registrations open from Friday 24 April. The test portal will open on Monday 27 April.

For more information, see the online video here.

For complete event information and registration see the ICT Skillnet page here.

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