State seeks cyber aces

April 27, 2014

Marie Szaniszlo

A series of high-profile cyber attacks over the past year has prompted Gov. Deval Patrick to invite an elite group of techies to compete next weekend in a Cyber Aces State Championship aimed at putting the best among them into desperately needed cyber-security jobs.

“The Cyber Aces program will help us create a pipeline of talent so we can build on our successes and lead the nation in the evolving innovation industry,” Patrick said.

Sixty-seven participants culled from a pool of more than 1,000 who faced off in an online competition last fall will take part on May 3 at UMass Boston in a high-stakes digital defense simulation called NetWars, the same hands-on simulation of real-world scenarios used by the U.S. military to train officers in network warfare.

“The 21st century is confronting us with online threats that are difficult and dangerous,” said L. Scott Rice, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard. “The world is increasingly interconnected as our commerce, national defense and education system are dependent on cyber security.”

Information technology is the second-fastest growing field in the nation, according to a Cisco analysis, which projected the demand for elite cyber technicians at 10,000, and the need for operators and administrators at 55,000 nationwide.

Yet there is a shortage of qualified candidates to fill those positions — a shortage that has become critical in the wake of cyber attacks on media outlets, Target, Neiman Marcus and, most recently, Children’s Hospital.