BT to train an army of 'Protectors' to defend the telco, its 30 million customers, nation states and critical national infrastructures

Martyn Warwick
By Martyn Warwick

Mar 21, 2022

  • Security now the most urgent issue facing the telecoms and IT sectors
  • Long-term programme will re-skill staff who get through rigorous selection process
  • First 30 trainees about to start intensive 16-weeks course 
  • BT working with cyber security training specialist, CAPSLOCK

Recently, BT, the UK’s incumbent national telco, has been making much of its expertise in what is probably one of the hottest and most urgent issues facing the telecoms and IT industry sectors today - security. The operator has been parlaying what it has learned from its own experiences of being hacked and cyber-attacked into products and solutions to help their business customers by providing managed security services. BT has operations in 180 countries and, with some 3,000 security experts in situ around the world, it provides cyber security services to some of the biggest companies on the planet, as well as nation states and critical national infrastructures. However, these days, those 3,000 experts are not enough.

Given the state of the world today with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and international tensions at their highest since the end of the Cold War, the focus on security has become even more acute, and as businesses spend a great deal of money and devote other expensive resources to fulfill their plans to digitise their private networks, they require, and are loudly demanding, very strong enterprise security products and services.

BT is already a leader here and can recognise a very important and potentially highly lucrative market opportunity when it sees one and has announced its determination to address the cyber skills gap by putting its money where its mouth is and aims to retrain BT staff to become cyber security experts. The telco is beginning a long-term initiative with a pilot cyber security re-skilling programme, working in partnership with BT’s already-accredited cyber security learning/training partner CAPSLOCK (and, yes, I did put the caps lock on when typing that name) to provide the best available digital hands-on curriculum yet developed. 

Thirty BT staff have been rigorously interviewed, assessed and recruited as being suitable to take part in the initial full-time on-line 16-week course. It will be no easy option but BT says that the course will equip them with excellent cyber security skills and offer a life-changing career move. The staff have been selected from BT’s Consumer and Global divisions across the UK and on successful completion of the course will be given jobs in BT’s security operation centred in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester. 

The move is notable, as telcos the world over find themselves in a state of never-ending transformation, not only from a networks and servcies perspective, but from a skills and culture standpoint: Identifying the required new skills and roles and deciding how to best fill them (with retraining existing staff being one of the options) is absolutely critical, something that BT and its peers recognize and are now addressing with numerous schemes. (To find out more, check out our Perspectives feature, The Changing Face of Telecoms.)  

BT has introduced the programme as a report from Britain’s Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) reveals that some 50 per cent of UK organisations suffer from a shortfall in cyber skills staff even as the effects to the Covid-19 pandemic have caused, and continue to cause, many to people to take stock of the lives and livelihoods and to look for other jobs and new opportunities in a work environment that combines some office attendance with a lot more working from home.

Those selected for the BT programme will participate in an interactive, team-based curriculum that has been developed by CAPSLOCK’s own industry experts with additional input from academics. The idea is to provide an as true-to-life as possible simulation across a gamut of real-world cyber problems.

It will cover incident management, cyber operations, threat intelligence, technical design, the detection of malware and social engineering threats, network penetration testing, governance, risk and policy. Students will be paired with BT cyber mentors (rather than Cybermen, the fictional race of cyborgs that, along with the Daleks, have been Doctor Who’s most persistent enemies since the TV series began back in the 1960s). Furthermore, trainees will be able to attain up to five certifications across a range of skills. One qualified they will become “Protectors,” defending BT, its 30 million customers and subscribers, governments and national infrastructures... so no pressure then. 

BT says that whilst the usual public perception (and to some extent the industry perception too) of cyber security professionals is of teams of very-highly specialised experts with vital but niche technical skills, the main requirement is for people with a broad range of skills to fill a variety of roles that can be acquired and developed via programmes devised and provided by CAPSLOCK and the telco itself.

Kevin Brown, the managing director of BT Security, commented, “There simply aren’t enough people with the necessary skills to fill the amount of cyber security jobs available. The ‘cyber skills gap’ is a hot topic in the security industry, and this pilot re-skilling programme with CAPSLOCK is a key part of how we’re working to develop the next generation of cyber security professionals.”

And the best of British luck to them, they are going to need it: Talk about a “job with a future.”

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