Simulated investigation staged at BT Tower in bid to unearth cyber recruits

Telecoms giant BT and the Cyber Security Challenge UK have staged a mock investigation into a cyber attack at London’s iconic BT Tower in a bid to find the country’s best hidden cyber security talent. No fewer than 24 of the brightest candidates from a series of online qualifying rounds were invited to compete against each other to investigate how a fictitious retail company came under vicious cyber attack, show off their abilities in front of prospective employers and qualify for the Challenge’s grand final Masterclass competition.

The event was the second face-to-face competition in the Cyber Security Challenge UK’s 2016 series of events, specifically designed to find the UK’s best cyber security talent. Candidates were tasked to track down the perpetrators of a data breach who had siphoned off money using unauthorised bank transfers, physical compromise, LAN intrusion and Point of Sale devices.

All sponsor competitions are designed to reflect potential real-life cyber security scenarios. For example, the scenario developed by experts at BT mirrored techniques used by hackers in the infamous Target data breach, whereby Point of Sale devices were compromised to gain access to the network and expose the details of over 70 million customers.

Earlier this month, BT revealed that it plans to hire over 900 more individuals this year to help defend against the hundreds of thousands of cyber attacks it experiences every day. This situation is reflected in thousands of organisations around the world, but finding exceptional talent to fill these positions remains a difficult process.

In fact, (ISC)2 – the world’s largest independent body of information security professionals – predicts a shortfall of 1.5 million workers by 2020 if current employment trends continue. It’s absolutely critical that this issue is addressed in order to protect our country’s infrastructure.

Effectiveness of the UK Cyber Security Challenge events

Since the UK Cyber Security Challenge began in 2010, over half of those attendees at the face-to-face and Masterclass competitions have been hired, highlighting the effectiveness of these challenges. By comprehensively testing candidates’ skills in a number of fields where first class abilities are highly sought after by today’s employers, the Challenge’s sponsors have access to talent that would otherwise remain hidden.

In this latest competition, Team Margaret Rock were the winning squad on the day, with Tomas Evans from Wales the overall winner of the competition.

Nicolay Ulmasov and David Buchanan finished second and third respectively. The top eight competitors have also progressed to the next Masterclass.

“I’m delighted to win the BT face-to-face competition,” said Tomas Evans. “I had a great time collaborating with my team, while the competition really tested our technical abilities. I’m now looking forward to the Masterclass and then progressing my career in the cyber security sector.”

The competition was closely monitored by BT’s security team and assessors from top cyber security organisations who judged the candidates on how well they performed tasks in line with accepted industry Best Practice.

The top performers in this event have qualified for the Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass, which takes place in November. This event pitches the Top 42 candidates from the qualifying competitions against each other in order to find this year’s ultimate cyber security defender.

Protecting organisations and infrastructures

“Cyber security has never been more important to BT and, as an industry, finding recruits to fill the ever-increasing roles we have opening up is the biggest hurdle we face in protecting our organisations and, in turn, our national infrastructure,” said Les Anderson, vice-president of cyber at BT. “The skills that candidates have shown at these competitions over the years have proven there’s a huge amount of untapped skill out there for us to access.”

Stephanie Daman, CEO of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, commented: “Cyber crime has never been higher up on the corporate agenda. The TalkTalk breach last year showed just how much data breaches can cost, both financially and in terms of businesses’ reputations. Our events are designed to accurately represent the scenarios that cyber security experts in the field experience on a day-to-day basis. The competition that BT has developed plays on current data breaches and hacking techniques, and is deliberately designed to look for the skills that employers need.”

With the backing of founding sponsors like the SANS Institute, the Challenge started out to create a series of virtual and face-to-face competitions that would identify talented people for the cyber security industry. Now in its sixth year, the Challenge is backed by over 50 of the UK’s most prestigious public and private sector and academic organisations, and hosts a wide programme of activities designed to ‘spread the word’ about why cyber security is such a fulfilling and varied career while assisting talented individuals to locate their initial cyber security roles.

Working from school level right through to helping career changers with their transitions, the UK Cyber Security Challenge is making a notable difference to the career prospects of those with the talents and aptitudes necessary for them to become cyber security professionals.

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About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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