India-based cloud training firm CloudThat will hold an online hackathon focused on cloud security skills for Microsoft Azure. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

CloudThat on Wednesday, a cloud training and consulting services firm based in India, opened registration to an online hackathon it’s sponsoring that will build cloud security skills around the Microsoft Azure platform.

The hackathon will last for five weeks and has been divided into three stages: registration; assessment/idea submissions; and presentation of the proposed solution and evaluation. The hackathon is open to Azure beginners and anyone with an interest in cloud security. The results of the first stage will be announced Nov. 29. Only 10 participants will enter the final stage, which will take place virtually on Dec. 16 and 17.

Participants do not need to know how to code, or have any IT background. If they are willing to learn and explore then they  are the right fit for this hackathon. Students can participate by themselves or in groups.

Cloud security has been a major issue for a while now and thus any sort of major effort to incentivize learners and future cloud engineers to take security seriously and understand the risks it poses is a huge win for the security community, as well as cloud maturity as a whole, said Matt Mullins, senior security researcher at Cybrary. Mullins added that Azure has been positioned as a quickly growing share of the cloud market because of its ease of disaster recovery, integration to on-premesis Active Directory enterprise instances, as well as their security features for incidents.

“That being said, there are some issues that confuse and confound engineers when it comes to tenancy, access managements, and other aspects like application privileges,” Mullins said. “Considering all this,  the efforts being made to garner interest and drum up eagerness for technical skill development will help make Azure a more applicable options for larger organizations. These sorts of larger CTFs/Hackathons will hopefully carry the learned lessons of security and architecture into the cloud ecosystem and improve the generally unfavorable security posture of cloud implementations.”

Craig Burland, chief information security officer at Inversion6, said the hackathon is a great idea and much-needed to help chip away at the growing resource deficit in cybersecurity. Burland said a majority of organizations report being negatively impacted by the lack of qualified cybersecurity resources: some surveys peg this at more than 80%.

“This comes at a time when threats are rising, and the pressure on organizations to build a solid cybersecurity program has never been higher,” said Burland. “Sooner or later, market forces should begin to balance out the supply and demand for cybersecurity resources.  But the more companies recognize the risk and provide some additional stimulus, the better off we will all be.”

Jason Hicks, executive advisor and Field CISO at Coalfire, said it’s important to create a talent pipeline with the needed skills to fill the cloud and security roles we have now and will have in the future. This event offers a good way for students to get practical hands-on experience using the latest tools and methods to solve real world problems they would face on the job, said Hicks.

“It will also allow the sponsors to bring on some of the most qualified individuals as interns which is a good way for the students to get additional hands-on experience and is a good way to get them into the sponsoring firms talent pipeline,” said Hicks.