Speaking at a recent event in London, Andy Archibald, deputy director of the National Crime Agency National Cyber Crime Unit, addressed the challenge of attracting cyber security professionals into the public sector.
While hackers potentially make large sums of money through nefarious deeds including data theft, deploying ransomware and computer viruses, those in law enforcement tasked with tracking them down are less well off. But while it's unlikely a police cyber security expert will run off to become a criminal, the private sector can offer much higher wages than the public sector.
"That's a challenge in law enforcement, to attract, retain and reward these individuals," said Archibald, addressing the e-Crime and Information Security Congress. "Not only does the public sector and law enforcement need the skills, but so does the private sector. And of course within the private sector the salary packages are more attractive," he added.
So how do public sector organisations - especially the police and other law enforcement agencies - ensure that they can attract the talent they need to take on the cyber criminals?
Dr Siraj Ahmed Shaikh, reader in cyber security and leader of the Digital Security and Forensics research group at Coventry University, believes an answer lies in authorities engaging with universities to identify top talent early and tailor their skills for a career in the public sector.
"Any talent has to be nurtured. The public sector needs to work with universities to put in place focused training and education to grow that talent," Dr Shaikh told Computing.
"While there are initiatives to address basic skills, more specialised skillsets - such intelligence gathering, network security monitoring, forensics - need to be prioritised as well."
Dr Shaikh suggested government should concentrate on ensuring young cyber security enthusiasts get the specialist education they need, while avoiding "publicity stunts" like the Cyber Security Challenge, which he said had "clearly failed", with fewer than a third of the contest's finalists finding work in cyber security.
When it comes to retaining talent, however, Dr Shaikh echoed Archibald in saying it is a "challenge across various spheres of cyber security". But he told Computing there are ways the public sector can ensure it retains talent by offering "incentives and bonus structures", along with opportunities for "specialist training and development".
"As with some other civil service professions, the public sector needs to create prestige and allure to this profession. How about a cyber 007 to the rescue?" he suggested.
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