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Alan Turing’s World War II Headquarters Will Once Again House Codebreakers

Bletchley Park is being revived as a cybersecurity training center

The mansion at Bletchley Park. (Draco2008 via Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

Of all the technological advancements to come out of World War II, the work done at Britain’s Bletchley Park shines above the rest. The site lies an hour north of London and was the central headquarters for Alan Turing and other researchers who were critical to the war effort, cracking the nearly impenetrable Nazi codes. Now, decades later, the stately manor will become home to the next generation of code makers and codebreakers as the United Kingdom’s National College of Cyber Security.

Though the estate has been made famous by its Hollywood depictions, including “The Imitation Game” and “Enigma,” Bletchley Park was one of Britain’s best-kept secrets for decades. Home to the Government Code and Cypher School, it was one of the most important parts of the Allied Forces’ espionage network, with researchers working around the clock to crack enemy codes, Sean Coughlan reports for the BBC. The work done there by Turing and other researchers also led to the creation of the first computer, making it fitting that the site will now be home to people learning how to safeguard and break into digital networks.

"It's a rich story. We're leveraging the legacy and heritage," Alastair MacWillson, the head of Qufaro, a cybersecurity group running the new school, tells Tim Hume for CNN. "The government says cyber security and the measures to defend the country are the new codes and cyphers. So where better to do this?"

In 1987, Bletchley Park was decommissioned and later turned into a museum dedicated to its codebreaking history. Parts of the site, however, were left derelict and are now being considered for renovation in order to house a boarding school for 16- to 19-year-old future cybersecurity experts, Eleanor Ross reports for The Guardian.

Reopening Bletchley as a cybersecurity school isn’t just a nod to history—hackers are an increasing threat to governments, companies, and private citizens alike. According to security company Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report, hackers using so-called “spear phishing campaigns” to hack into systems through innocent-looking emails has risen 55 percent in 2015, and 75 percent of websites have serious gaps in their security.

“There is a shortfall in terms of the professional resources to combat this right now and it will get so much worse unless there is a program to get to grips with it,” MacWillson tells Ross.

Right now, the school is set to open in 2018 with a class of 500 students and will be free to those who are accepted. MacWillson is also aiming to partner with a nearby incubator for burgeoning tech companies to find instructors and internships for the school’s students.

"There is some real talent out there, people with extraordinary capabilities in this area, and it’s usually youngsters that are good at gaming theory and hacking systems," MacWillson tells Hume.

While the future school still has plenty of details to iron out over the coming year, it's a fitting fate for Turing’s old haunt.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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