Posts Tagged: ISC2

Jun 17

Why So Many Top Hackers Hail from Russia

Conventional wisdom says one reason so many hackers seem to hail from Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union is that these countries have traditionally placed a much greater emphasis than educational institutions in the West on teaching information technology in middle and high schools, and yet they lack a Silicon Valley-like pipeline to help talented IT experts channel their skills into high-paying jobs. This post explores the first part of that assumption by examining a breadth of open-source data.

The supply side of that conventional wisdom seems to be supported by an analysis of educational data from both the U.S. and Russia, which indicates there are several stark and important differences between how American students are taught and tested on IT subjects versus their counterparts in Eastern Europe.


Compared to the United States there are quite a few more high school students in Russia who choose to specialize in information technology subjects. One way to measure this is to look at the number of high school students in the two countries who opt to take the advanced placement exam for computer science.

According to an analysis (PDF) by The College Board, in the ten years between 2005 and 2016 a total of 270,000 high school students in the United States opted to take the national exam in computer science (the “Computer Science Advanced Placement” exam).

Compare that to the numbers from Russia: A 2014 study (PDF) on computer science (called “Informatics” in Russia) by the Perm State National Research University found that roughly 60,000 Russian students register each year to take their nation’s equivalent to the AP exam — known as the “Unified National Examination.” Extrapolating that annual 60,000 number over ten years suggests that more than twice as many people in Russia — 600,000 — have taken the computer science exam at the high school level over the past decade.

In “A National Talent Strategy,” an in-depth analysis from Microsoft Corp. on the outlook for information technology careers, the authors warn that despite its critical and growing importance computer science is taught in only a small minority of U.S. schools. The Microsoft study notes that although there currently are just over 42,000 high schools in the United States, only 2,100 of them were certified to teach the AP computer science course in 2011.


If more people in Russia than in America decide to take the computer science exam in secondary school, it may be because Russian students are required to study the subject beginning at a much younger age. Russia’s Federal Educational Standards (FES) mandate that informatics be compulsory in middle school, with any school free to choose to include it in their high school curriculum at a basic or advanced level.

“In elementary school, elements of Informatics are taught within the core subjects ‘Mathematics’ and ‘Technology,” the Perm University research paper notes. “Furthermore, each elementary school has the right to make [the] subject “Informatics” part of its curriculum.” Continue reading →

May 14

White-Hat Hacker Schools Security Pro School

If you’re taking an exam to test your skills as an Internet security professional, do you get extra credit for schooling the organization that hosts the test? If that organization is the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² — the non-profit that administers the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam — the answer is “no,” but you might get a nice ‘thank you’ from the head of the organization.


Last month, I heard from Alex Holden, a security consultant who is quite gifted at quickly identifying security holes in Internet-facing things. Holden was visiting the site to pay his annual CISSP membership dues, and was getting ready to fork over the $85 annual fee when he noticed a glaring weakness in the organization’s checkout page: The URL listed all of his registration information in plaintext.

The site hadn’t yet requested his credit card, but Holden found that he could skip the payment process merely by changing the $85 amount in the URL produced by the checkout page to a negative number. Clicking submit after that change was made produced an email congratulating him on his successful renewal. Continue reading →