Illinois launches Cyber Challenge to bolster cybersecurity workforce

The Cyber Challenge is designed to provide a “pathway of learning and workforce training for veterans and students,” as part of a public safety and job creation campaign.

The cyber initiative includes advanced online training in cybersecurity at no cost to Illinois residents, a special Veterans Cyber Camp for the top performing veterans and a championship competition to identify the state's top cyber-talent for public- and private-sector opportunities.

The initiative is particularly aimed at veterans, although anyone can apply. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) will use its system to contact more than 20,000 veterans, inviting them to enter a free entry-level education and testing program that focuses on fundamentals with emphasis on three critical modules: networking, operating systems and system administration. Qualified applicants will then be invited to the Summer Cyber Camp.

Another entry-level testing competition will occur in the autumn and be open to veterans, students and other job seekers. A state championship event featuring top-performers from both quiz cycles will occur in the spring.

"As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, the threat to our nation's cybersecurity continues to grow," Governor Quinn said. "Connecting our highly-skilled veterans and students with these 21st-century jobs is a solid way to increase national security and create another pathway to employment."

He pointed out that the Defense Department's Cyber Command plans to increase its workforce to more than 4,000, up from 900. Also, government spending on cyber security in general is going up

The Cyber Aces Foundation is kicking off Governors' Cyber Challenges across the country to help identify individuals with the necessary skill set for cybersecurity jobs.

"Similar to our shortage of fighter pilots at the start of World War II, we now have a critical shortage of skilled cyber defenders," Cyber Aces founder Alan Paller said. "And like the pilot training programs of that era, Cyber Aces initiatives, such as the Illinois State Championship, are how we will create the specialists we need."


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