In the most recent annual NSA-backed coding contest, the TopCoder Open, only two of the 70 finalists were from the U.S. Dominating the contest were China and Russia, according to ITWorld. The contest started with 4,200 contestants around the world. China entered 894, India 704, Russia 380, and the U.S. 234 contestants. The winner of the overall contest was an 18-year-old from China who went by the handle "crazyb0y."
ITWorld and others point to these results as further evidence that the U.S. lags badly behind the rest of the world in math and science education. I am concerned as a security professional that there will not be enough scientists to keep the U.S. ahead from a security perspective. It's the scientists who have math and science backgrounds that develop the algorithms and advanced software that are used in cryptanalysis, virus and spyware software, and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). If we continue down this path, there will be no U.S.-developed software. We could potentially be outsourcing our protection software (virus, spyware, etc.) to the same countries that are trying to break into our systems. Chinese hackers have been accused this year of attacking the U.S. electrical grid and the Joint Strike Fighter project, among other targets. And, as I wrote in March, China is the top producer of malware. Allowing the trend to continue, knowing full well that the lack of technical skill levels in the U.S. will not only allow other countries to advance further, but will prevent us from being able to protect ourselves adequately from nefarious activities, would be the ultimate irony.