A Tokyo-based IT security firm has established a unique program that offers up to ¥1 million in financial assistance to computer whizzes under the age of 20.

According to Lac Co., the move is aimed at nurturing young talent in the information security industry, where demand for cutting-edge expertise is surging.

“Cyberattacks these days, represented by cases of persistent, targeted attacks against corporate intellectual property, are turning extremely complicated and sophisticated,” the firm said in a statement Dec. 26. “We receive requests for help from many companies on how to take measures against them, but as it stands, even if we make various proposals, the companies do not have the personnel who can understand and implement them.”

Applications for the 2014 program will be accepted from Feb. 1 through the end of March.

If accepted, the winners can use the money — no strings attached — to improve their skills in information security, such as by purchasing the needed hardware and software and traveling to attend security conferences overseas.

Lac spokesman Masahiko Iimura said that the firm has for years sponsored young entrants in the international hacking contest Capture the Flag, also known as CTF, on an ad hoc basis. The contest is aimed at improving expertise among hackers.

Last year, the firm offered ¥700,000 to a team of hackers led by Hiromu Yakura, a second-year student at Nada High School in Kobe. The young computer wizard used the money to acquire top-end system analysis software, the firm said.

Yakura, who heads the computer club at the prestigious private school, entered CTF with a team of other computer-savvy students. He also participated in a recent “security camp,” an annual, weeklong seminar aimed at nurturing elite information security experts that is sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Iimura said.

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