You’ll have noticed that as part of the CyberFirst initiative we’ve been using the term ‘Cyberist’ to describe who we are to the next generation of cyber professionals. I thought I’d use this blog to explain our rationale, and start a debate about what we want to be called (or indeed whether what we are called really matters).
I’ve been in this business nearly 30 years and I still struggle to explain to my family and friends what I do. Over the years I’ve been described as a technician, a computer security person, an information security geek, an information assurance expert, and now a cyber security professional. But none of these terms really describe what I do, or what the job’s about. They almost certainly won't inspire the next generation to think of cyber security as a career. And when you add to this how cyber security is portrayed in films, on TV and the Internet (it's usually boys or men in darkened rooms, wearing hoodies and full of malevolence), you'll appreciate that we at the NCSC are faced with quite a challenge.
Our CyberFirst programme of activities, aimed at 11 to 18-year-olds, has been designed to counter these stereotypes. For example, we hosted the final of the CyberFirst girls competition at Lancaster House (which you can see in the photo below) is an amazing venue full of light and colour. The setting was a deliberate departure from previous locations which have included the Cabinet Office War Room and HMS Belfast. Both of these are stunning locations in their own right, but they are also quite dark and claustrophobic.
Similarly, we've chosen the term 'Cyberist' to describe - in a more positive light - the role of someone who works in the cyber security profession. Far from being a shadowy figure, a Cyberist is someone with a dynamic career who plays a vital role in the community and wider society, protecting the information and systems we care about and rely on in our daily lives.
That said, it’s been clear from the response that this is quite an emotive subject. One of the immediate lessons we’ve learnt is that you can’t just invent a new word (or re-purpose an existing one) and expect everyone to accept your definition. We asked the target audience what they thought of the term, and received some positive responses, but this was only a small sample. So we'll use our summer courses to get a much broader view, and maybe discover some alternative suggestions that we can put to a vote - at the risk of course of getting egg all over our 'Cyber McCyberface'.
In the meantime, if you've any thoughts on the term 'Cyberist', or what we should be using to inspire the next generation of cyber security professionals, feel free to comment below.
Deputy Director Cyber Skills & Growth