Cyber conscription: Why we should expand it

The Danish government should increase the intake of cyber conscripts to strengthen civilian and military cyber security in Denmark.

For almost three years, an experimental cyber defence duty scheme has been in place in Denmark. And when it expires this May, the scheme should not only be made permanent. The intake of new cyber conscripts should also be significantly increased to ensure a solid foundation for recruiting young people with cyber skills for both the Armed Forces, civilian workplaces and IT education throughout the country.

In connection with the upcoming defence settlement, IDA calls on the government to upgrade its cyber security on several fronts.

"Cyber ​​security is a core competence in a modern defence. To that end, cyber conscription is a valuable leverage to attract more young people who gain a basic knowledge of IT and cyber security and end up with some highly sought-after skills", says Professor Jens Myrup Pedersen, who is an expert in cyber security for IDA.   

Six months of training

The cyber conscription consists of a four-month traditional conscription (Værnepligt) supplemented by six months of intensive training in cyber security. Each team consists of 16 soldiers, who during the training learn from both internal and external instructors. The trial scheme began in February 2020 and in May Team 6 will complete their training. Almost everyone has subsequently been offered an IT job either in private companies or in the Armed Forces.

"It illustrates the need to train far more people in the necessary skills to resist cyber attacks - not least in light of the serious cyber threat to Denmark", says Jens Myrup Pedersen.

Protection of infrastructure

In 2021, a number of parties entered into an agreement on a strengthened Danish cyber defence, which aims to make the cyber defence obligation permanent, but the level of ambition should be raised, IDA argues.

"It is important that politicians invest in creating the optimal framework for cyber defence duty, and that the Danish Armed Forces have the opportunity to build on the good experiences of recent years. There is a need for many more skilled military personnel with expertise in IT and cyber security", says Jens Myrup Pedersen, who is also professor of cyber security at AAU and national coach for the Danish cyber national team.

The Armed Forces have just established a cyber division, which will be responsible for operations, cyber security and development of IT across the three defences in the Armed Forces. It helps to support the development that has taken place since 2016, when NATO recognized the cyber area as a so-called fourth war domain alongside the three traditional forms of war on land, at sea and in the air.

"Cyber ​​conscription is an element of that transition, and it can also be a stepping stone to both further education and career opportunities in the Danish Armed Forces or elsewhere in Denmark, where they can contribute to protecting the critical infrastructure", says Jens Myrup Pedersen.