Experts are needed to keep the UK's web space safe and secure
A national public competition has begun to find people with a talent for keeping computers and networks secure.
The competition aims to find those with relevant analytical, forensic and programming skills using web-based games and challenges.
Without more computer security experts the UK will not be equipped to handle rising cyber crime, say professionals.
The challenge hopes to encourage many of those that complete the games to take up a career in computer security.
"We are increasingly dependent on networks and computer systems," said Judy Baker, director of the Cyber Security Challenge (CSC). "The whole digital economy and society is structured around them."
A survey conducted by the competition suggests that many security companies are already having problems recruiting enough skilled people to cope with all the potential work.
CSC is backed by the Cabinet Office, the Metropolitan Police, Qinetiq, Royal Holloway college and the Institute of Information Security Professionals, among others.
Ms Baker said the series of challenges and games that would test the talent and skills of people were currently being drawn up. They will be built around eight key skill areas which include digital forensics, network analysis and logical thinking.
The games aim to find people with the right skills who will then be invited to take part in the second stage of challenge. This is likely to include face-to-face tests such as the technical assault courses many computer professionals complete.
The challenge officially starts on 27 April and is aimed at those who are aged 16 or over.
Prizes will be given to top performers that will include scholarships, training courses and mentoring to help people hone their skills.
"There's a real need for people with these skills and they can give great value back to the nation as a whole," said Ms Baker.