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'Hack Idol' to find top UK cyberwarriors

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The UK government has launched plans to find the best young hackers through a talent competition.

Would-be cyberdefenders will be rated on their abilities to thwart attacks and hack into websites. Winners will be offered courses by the respected SANS Institute and assigned mentors.

University course and work placements also form part of the putative programme, due to take its first intake late next year, The Times reports.

Hack Idol may be a catchy concept, and it's easy to see how eccentric security minister Lord West - who famously reckons reformed naughty-boy hackers might play an important role in Britain's cyber-defence - might get sold on the idea.

In addition, there's a precedent from across the Atlantic. The UK scheme resembles the much larger US Cyber Challenge programme which is "looking for 10,000 young Americans with the skills to fill the ranks of cyber security practitioners, researchers, and warriors".

The winner of the first US Cyber Challenge was Michael Coppola, 17, of Connecticut, who gained plaudits for breaking into the scoring system and awarding himself extra points - a move straight out of cult haxploitation flick WarGames.

Sounds like good fun, but the idea of taking the now-ubiquitous TV talent show/glorified karaoke concept and applying it to computer security to find the next Neo sounds more than a little wrong-headed.

Chris Boyd (aka Paperghost), a security researcher at FaceTime, responded to the idea by saying the UK might just as well use a "complex system of water divining, Pagan ritual and astronomy to find the best hackers". ®

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