On the weekend of 7-8 October, the Barclays and Cabinet Office-backed security initiative Cyber Security Challenge UK hosted an immersive competition designed to test the skills of 30 cyber enthusiasts. The competition required contestants to adopt the role of interns at a fictitious cyber security firm who had to defend the company from a cyber attack triggered by an insider, all while their superiors were on a team-building canoeing adventure.
This was the last of 2017’s Cyber Security Challenge UK face-to-face competitions orchestrated to unearth the UK’s hidden cyber talent and place these individuals in public and private sector cyber security roles to fill the critical cyber security skills gap. Not only does cyber security offer an exciting and varied career, but also a lucrative one, with cyber roles commanding salaries averaging over £60,000 per annum when the appropriate training has been completed.
The competition took place in national heritage site and grand country house Radbroke Hall, which is also the current location of Barclays’ Technology Centre. In the scenario, the ‘interns’ – who were staffing a fictitious security company called ‘Research4U’ – had to spring into action after a hacking group launched a large-scale cyber attack on the business, stealing confidential technology, source code and client data. The story saw hackers demand a ransom of £10 million to prevent them from releasing the data to the press.
Competitors had to infiltrate and stop the fictional hacker group in order to destroy the leaked information before it could be released to the ‘press’. Leading cyber specialists from Barclays and other industry organisations assessed the contestants on their vulnerability assessment, reconnaissance, attack strategies and espionage skills in order to rank their performance and suitability for careers in the industry.
The winning team was Team Wormhole, made up of Carolyn Yates, Isabel Whistlecroft, Kajusz Dykiel, Peter Campbell and Waldo Woch.
The eight contestants who have qualified for next month’s Masterclass grand final are Cameron Howes, Asher Caswell, Tom Brook, Vlad Ellis, Mohammed Rahman, David Young, Rajiv Shah and Isabel Whistlecroft. They will join the previous F2F winners from earlier in the year at Masterclass where they’ll compete against each other and have the opportunity to network with industry experts, in addition to winning career-enhancing prizes including degree scholarships, training courses, technology and gadgets and industry memberships.
Cyber skills shortage
The competition mirrors recent high-profile attacks, such as WannaCry, where hackers held organisations to ransom across the globe. With the Public Accounts Committee revealing earlier this year that the Government’s ability to protect Britain from high-level cyber attacks is undermined by the present cyber skills shortage, the need to find individuals with cyber skills has arguably never been greater.
Troels Oerting, Barclays Group’s Chief Security Officer and Chief Information Security Officer, said: “The best way in which to learn about cyber security is to engage in realistic scenarios, such as the competition that we’ve just hosted. Saturday’s event created a scenario that really tested candidates’ abilities to perform under pressure, think strategically, work in a team and display leadership skills. A career in cyber security requires various skills, including the ability to second-guess hackers and make critical decisions very quickly. It was very encouraging to see students so immersed in solving the challenges that we set them. I wish all the candidates the very best in their careers.”
Nigel Harrison, acting CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK, added: “This year’s scenarios have been varied in nature in order to demonstrate the range of cyber threats that this nation faces as well as the sheer breadth of sectors that need cyber security professionals – from banking and finance to automotive and even retail. Sponsors like Barclays make this possible and, in turn, help to open the door to dozens more careers. I would like to encourage any budding cyber security specialist, or ‘white hat hackers’, to consider applying for our competitions. The nation faces a growing cyber security threat, so we’re in real need of talent that can keep organisations, and the general public, secure. Why not challenge yourself today?”