Cyber apprentices and the escalating data arms race

Written by BT on 17 November 2015 in Sponsored Article
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Cyber security apprentices from government to join apprentices from BT at networking and training event later this month

Knowledge is power, and when it comes to cyber crime, any expertise that can be shared to protect organisations becomes part of a very necessary armoury. Like BT, the civil service has introduced a major programme to recruit cyber apprentices and around eighty of these from across government departmentsand from BT will be attending BT’s state of the art research facility at Adastral Park in Suffolk in late November.

BT recruited around 25 cyber apprentices this year, to join its existing team of over 2,000 cyber security experts, to help it protect itself and its clients from what BT’s Government Security business development director Neil Mellor describes as “sustained and very sophisticated attacks from well-resourced criminal and politically motivated groups.”  

Training apprentices in cyber protection allows BT to continue to build up security skills in-house and it’s an area in which many entrants at apprentice and graduate levels are keen to focus their careers.  Matt Hancock, Cabinet Office minister said: "today's Cyber Security Apprentices will be keeping cyberspace secure and vibrant in the years ahead. I'm delighted that Cyber Security Apprentices from BT and government are meeting to share best practice and learn about the future of cyber security.  This is an excellent way of ensuring that young people get the cyber skills that our country needs."

It’s also particularly appropriate that the Cyber Security Apprentices are meeting at BT’s research facility, given the announcement by government of a £6.5m investment in CyberInvest, a scheme to bolster world-class UK cyber-security research, to which BT has committed £500,000.

Media coverage of hacking threats and shows like Mr. Robot – which deal with ‘hacktivism’ – give the public a somewhat skewed view of the reality: in recent years cyber crime has become more likely to be carried out by groups of people working together, often very skilled, well-funded and organized.

Over the last six to twelve months BT has seen a shift in cyber crime patterns.  Mellor compares it to a house burglary.  “It used to be smash and grab,” he says.  “But now it’s more surveillance and covert entry.  Just like a burglar keeping watch over a house, noting certain patterns and identifying weak points, they are waiting for exactly the right moment to get exactly what they want. Their targeting is more refined and uses elements like social media to build a profile of the organisation and its vulnerabilities to find multiple entry routes.” 

The cyber apprentice event at Adastral Park will encourage the apprentices to network while learning about how BT protects itself, the role of Security Operations Centres, the latest cybersecurity technology, advances such as visual analytics and advanced cryptography, and the role of security as an enabler of safe, more efficient working in an age of austerity.  James Todd, general manager of BT’s Global Cyber Practice, who will address the group, began his career as an apprentice himself.

BT’s cyber apprentices learn about the importance of a holistic approach to security, bringing together the right people skills, processes and technology pooling data and analyzing it in real time to spot attacks, weaknesses or anomalies and acting immediately to prevent incidents and to share vital threat information.

The days of point protection alone have gone – simply hoping to identify known malware is too little too late.  Knowing what ‘normal’ looks like within your organisation’s IT allows you to identify anomalies and deal with new ‘zero day’ threats proactively, avoiding the situation in which malware or hackers have been allowed in and are not identified until weeks or even months later, when the damage has already been done.

In addition, good threat intelligence and the use of ethical hackers can keep you on the front foot.  With the world’s largest global MPLS network BT tracks vast amounts of threat intelligence across the world, using analysts to monitor trends, search the ‘Dark Web’ and check the activities of hackers to identify who and what may be targeted next.

The type of threat faced by UK organisations today can range from a criminal attempt at blackmail or data theft, a terrorist attack on critical infrastructure or an employee unwisely clicking on an attachment with a dangerous payload of malware, but whatever the level of threat, together government and BT’s cyber apprentices are being prepared to defend the UK’s interests and citizens. 

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