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The day our cyber security apprentices became hackers


04 November 2016

Global Services

Blogs by author: Global Services, We’re a leading global business communications provider


When it comes to fighting cyber crime, you have to know your enemy. So here’s what happened when our cyber security apprentices turned hacktivist for a day.

Turning to the dark side

Imagine you have to take down a corrupt energy company. And to do that, you need to hack into its servers and uncover evidence of wrongdoing. How would you go about doing it?

Well, that’s exactly the question our cyber security apprentices had to answer at a recent event…

Apprentice Event

Capturing the flag

Looking to boost the cyber skills of our current security apprentices, our Advanced Services team hosted a ‘Capture the Flag’ event at Adastral Park, our national innovation centre. And the whole idea was to get our apprentices thinking more like hackers.

Their mission for the day was to hack into the website of a suspicious fake company called eCorp, looking for any vulnerabilities (known as ‘flags’) to exploit.

The ‘hackathon’ saw teams of apprentices use a range of tactics to attack eCorp’s website. And this led them to unprotected files — including dodgy tax returns, sensitive customer data and even plans to take over Africa.

Learning vital cyber skills

The event was a huge success, and the apprentices learned a lot from their time in the murky world of cyber crime.

It gave them an important chance to learn new skills and gain experience of working in a pressured environment.

After all, you can’t defend a network if you don’t know how hackers work.

Building excitement in cyber security

Events like this recent ‘Capture the Flag’ are a vital part of our commitment to hire more cyber security apprentices. As well as teaching essential cyber skills, they build interest in the industry — encouraging more people to consider a career in it.

And this has led to a vast increase in the number of apprentices we’ve been able to take on. This year, we’ve recruited 50 (double last year’s tally), which makes us the UK’s biggest employer of cyber security apprentices in the private sector.

This is all part of our drive to recruit 900 more people to our security teams around the world — brought about by the lack of cyber skills most organisations have. In fact, three-quarters of UK CIOs say they’ll face greater security threats due to the lack of IT talent available. And that’s exactly what we’re aiming to combat.

Looking to the future

We don’t rest on our laurels, though. We’re busy setting up events just like this in colleges, and working especially hard to encourage more women to join the industry. This year, we have five female apprentices, but we want that number to grow.

“We want to encourage more women to build careers in this fast-growing industry,” says Mark Hughes, BT Security’s CEO. “We’re running programmes in schools to show young women that cyber security offers an interesting, varied career in which they can succeed.”

That’s why events like ‘Capture the Flag’ and our wider cyber security apprenticeship scheme are important ways to identify and prepare the experts of the future.

Find out more about our apprenticeships.