By Martyn Ruks
This HackFu website was setup with the aim of communicating some of the lessons we’ve learned on our quest to develop the skills needed to solve the current and future challenges in cyber security. It therefore seems right to include our thoughts about the annually run Cheltenham Science Festival here in the UK, which I spoke at last week.
For this year's event, we were asked to contribute to a panel session on Hacking the Internet of Things (IoT). This was a lively session where we looked at the security issues associated with the plethora of devices that are now connect to the Internet. As always the Science Festival audience were ordinary members of the public, yet were already very informed about the subject and challenged the panel and each other across a wide spectrum of topics. These ranged from questions about vulnerabilities in legacy systems, through to the issues around privacy and the need for legislation in order to improve security.
At MWR, one of our key beliefs around improving security is devoting time to educate people about it. In the world of IoT, this is particularly important as all of us are likely to be touched by it at some point in the future. There will always be security weaknesses in these types of devices but how those issues impact on us is largely determined by the decisions we make as users and the information we entrust to them. Being an informed consumer is therefore vitally important.
So this session in Cheltenham was important to us, as it enabled us to pass on our thoughts and guidance about IoT to the people who will use it. We know that if we do that in a clear and understandable way we’ll harness the power of multiplication we’ve discussed before in order to get that message out to a wider and wider audience.
But if we were to focus purely on this one session we’d be doing the Science Festival a big disservice and would be missing the bigger point of this site. We’ve explained previously about the challenges we’re facing in cyber security and whilst there is a need to identify people with a wide range of skills to help us solve them, there is a big role for those with skills in the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
The whole ethos around the festival is engagement and access with all those present providing innovative and fun ways to engage with the subject areas. So this year at the festival there were, for example, lots of exhibits themed around Back to the Future film franchise, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
To the organisers credit, there were a myriad of thought-provoking STEM exhibits and plenty of presentations and sessions by notable people. My favourite guest speaker was Professor Heinz Wolff - but I’m a bit biased as I have many fond memories from my childhood of the Great Egg Race. For those of you who want to remind yourself of this great TV programme you can find a number of episodes in the BBC archive here.
When you take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the festival, it's plain to see the important role it plays in inspiring the next generation of thinkers and doers. For example, where young visitors were interacting with the problem-solving exhibits at the event, I could certainly see the HackFu Mind at work!
Attracting the people with the right skills and talents into the cyber security industry is absolutely key if we are to address the challenges we face - and this is another important way of doing that. One of our measures for success will be how many of the people who have passed through the festival this year, are competing at HackFu in the years to come.
The one thing we’re certain about is that they’ll be very welcome and we’ll be excited to meet them.
In our opening article we discuss how we see the problem space and what some of the challenges are so given all of that, what are we looking to achieve with this website.
As we said previously we don’t claim to know all the solutions but we are certainly trying things that will enable us to find them. Along the way we’ll learn lots of lessons, we’ll no doubt have a few false starts but we’ll also get some stuff right. It’s that journey that we’re going to share on this site, including all the initiatives and events that we’re planning to run to support it all.
We don’t know yet exactly what will be on this site but the one thing we’re certain of is that it will be thought provoking, philosophical, challenging and most importantly it will be fun and engaging. We’ll get techie at times, something we make no apology for, as well as extracting the concepts and key points that we encounter along the way.
We also want your help on our journey. We want you to tell us your thoughts and experiences of what we’re doing and hopefully some stories about how you’ve taken our ideas and turned them into your own projects, events and general awesomeness. We want to know the good, the bad and the ugly and to get involved please get in contact via Twitter and then keep coming back to this hub for more insight and information.
So hold on tight, this will be a wild ride for all of us.