Cyber crime battle 'needs more undergraduates'

A lack of undergraduate courses that cover online information security is jeopardising the effectiveness of the UK's Cyber Security Strategy, according to a leading expert.

December 9, 2012

In a written statement on 3 December, Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, praises the progress of the strategy, which was published 12 months ago and sets out the UK’s approach to tackling cyber crime.

“One year after the Strategy’s publication a great deal has already been accomplished in our aim of protecting UK interests in cyberspace and making the UK one of the safest places to do business online,” he says.

“The past year has created an increasing momentum across the UK at varying levels and across all sectors in addressing a wide range of cyber security threats.”

Mr Maude also claims the strategy has seen the government invest in skills and research, including through the creation of academic centres of excellence in the field at eight UK universities.

However, John Colley, co-chair of the European advisory board for ISC², a body that certifies information security education, criticised the strategy for failing to address a skills shortage.

“Funding new research centres and denoting ‘centre of excellence’ status to universities that are already delivering graduate courses in this space does not begin to address the skills shortage that we all acknowledge is adding to the threat,” he said.

“There are already 55 to 60 graduate-level courses in the UK [in this area] but most students don’t pursue an education at this level. More is needed at the undergraduate level where awareness of the career opportunities can help reach the numbers required.”

Mr Maude says that the government is building cyber security into undergraduate university degrees, adding that from 2015, education in cyber security will be a mandatory component of all software engineering degrees accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Mr Colley welcomed this step, but added that the requirement should be extended to all computing science and web development courses.

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