A panoramic photograph of Malham Cove in North Yorkshire.


Everyone was wrong, including me.

What is CyberFirst?

CyberFirst is the common brand for a range of schemes run by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). NCSC is part of GCHQ. The brand has existed since at least 2017 (since 2017, 36,000 girls have taken part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition) and has expanded in recent years.

The CyberFirst landing page suggests that there are currently four main areas of work,

All of the CyberFirst work aimed at increasing and broadening the opportunities to enter a sector of the economy that is felt to be growing rapidly and offer good salaries.

What is “cyber”?

Cyber is a poorly-defined shorthand term used for a sector of the economy loosely associated with information security. Jobs in the area are extremely varied.

A physical security firms that protects important data infrastructure sites while mindful of their unique vulnerabilities might class itself as “Cyber”. Almost all manufacturers of digital devices have multiple functions in their company that they might group as “Cyber”. Companies that sell anti-virus software, penetration testing services, and digital security advice often use the term “Cyber” to broadly describe their work. A significant proportion of UK government jobs are now classed as “Cyber” in some way. The UK’s national data strategy mentions the phrase “cyber” 19 times.

What is the ballerina ad?

The ballerina advert shows a ballet dancer called Fatima (for the purpose of the advert) and encourages her to “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot” as an advert to take an online course in Cyber. It seems to be part of a new online course by QA, a tech skills organisation. They are running a flexible series of online courses which in 30 days gives participants “an industry-recognised certificate in cyber security”. It seems to be an extension of the established Defenders, Futures and Advanced branded online courses in cyber security to adults which has run in previous years. But it's by a different training provider.

There are seven further similar adverts. The training provider QA are advertising the courses on social media. That Omar is wearing a mask in his promotional picture suggests that this version of the scheme targeted at adults and specifically that these eight promotional images are from 2020. They do not appear to be from “last year” as widely claimed online, and which I initially shared.

The Fatima picture has now been taken down from the web by QA having caused significant online controversy.

What is the context?

The Coronavirus pandemic has had variable impact on different sectors of the UK economy. It was first reported by ITV and then widely shared that the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak had suggested that musicians and others in the arts should retrain and find other jobs. The Full Fact transcript of what he said strongly suggests that this interpretation was unfair and ITV corrected their headline.

There remains a strong perception in the performing arts sectors of the UK economy that the UK government is not doing enough to support employment in areas which rely on audience payment, something which is currently impossible or highly limited due to government restriction. There is a strong argument that these sectors of the economy will return to normal in coming years as economic restrictions caused by Covid-19 reduce and that it would be better for the government to preserve the sector rather than encourage those in it to retrain and take jobs in other sectors. This made the one of eight adverts featuring a performing artist outraging to many.

Show me the adverts!

Here are the adverts. The one with Fatima feels reasonable to reproduce since the original has been taken down. The other seven are included for completeness.

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