Last Saturday, defence giant and national security specialist Raytheon UK designed and hosted a simulated cyber terrorist strike at London’s iconic BT Tower in a bid to unearth new talent that can defend the UK against growing cyber threats.
Part of the Government-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK, the online battle tested some of the nation’s finest amateurs and, in particular, their ability to defend physical infrastructure from sophisticated cyber crime groups.
“With crime and incidents of terror escalating online, it’s abundantly clear that we need a new generation of digital defence warriors ready to face such threats,” explained Paul Crichard, Raytheon UK’s head of cyber research.
“We designed this contest to mimic the high pressure emergency situations that real world professionals have to deal with, and also to show gifted people who may just enjoy code-breaking or reverse engineering as a hobby that, going forward, their talents are actually vital to the UK’s economy.”
Continuing this theme, Crichard also told Risk UK: “The skills and enthusiasm on display in these competitions show the wealth of innovation the UK could be tapping into. Indeed, we’re now working on new ways to grow this talent pipeline across the UK. Raytheon recently launched a new cyber innovation competition specifically aimed at UK SMEs with prizes totalling £100,000.”
This latest attack simulation challenged future cyber security professionals on their ability to defend against a real-time cyber threat designed to mimic the infamous Heartbleed and Shellshock attacks. Performances were assessed by experts from Raytheon UK, GCHQ, the National Crime Agency, BT, C3IA and the Airbus Group.
The demonstration emulated a realistic cyber attack and saw challengers infiltrate a model server system to win back control of a large building’s power supply. Once the fictitious hacking group named the Flagday Associates had been outsmarted, the BT Tower’s observation deck revolved to celebrate the winning team’s success.
The Raytheon UK-designed challenge is part of a programme of competitions configured to raise awareness of career opportunities for talented young people in what is very much a booming cyber security industry, while at the same time addressing a national cyber security talent shortage.
Economic cost of cyber crime on the rise
Stephanie Daman, CEO at the Cyber Security Challenge UK, commented: “The recent Carbanak attack that plundered global banks shows that the economic cost of cyber crime is continually rising. The resources that UK industry leaders are now investing to attract new talent through events like these indicate that they’re taking the threat to our economy very seriously. The industry is dedicated to finding new ways of addressing the critical talent shortage across Britain as we see rising cyber crime posing a threat to UK assets and even critical infrastructures.”
The amateur code-breakers – selected from over nine months of intensive national assessments – were analysed on their ability to use some of the cyber security industry’s finest crime-fighting tools ranging from cryptography through to Kali-Linux (the latter being one of the most advanced penetration testing packages ever created).
The winning team on the day comprised Adam Tonks (a student from Cirencester currently studying at Bournemouth University), Darren Brooke (an IT consultant from Pontypridd in South Wales), Robert Laverick (who runs a software development consultancy based in Redcar) and Steve Haughton, a network manager from Cardiff. They each receive a range of prizes including Raspberry Pi 2 devices and Xbox Ones.
In addition, the ten best performers on the day have been offered places at the Challenge’s grand final – next month’s Masterclass – where finalists from all four of the Cyber Security Challenge UK’s face-to-face competitions will come together in London to take part in what will be the UK’s largest-ever simulated cyber attack.
The prestigious event will be hosted by a consortium involving BT, GCHQ, the National Crime Agency, the Airbus Group and Lockheed Martin.
Raytheon UK is a subsidiary of the Raytheon Company. The organisation is a prime contractor and major supplier to the UK Ministry of Defence and has developed strong capabilities in mission systems integration across the defence, national security and commercial markets.
Raytheon UK also designs, develops and manufactures a range of high technology electronic systems and software at facilities in Harlow, Glenrothes, Uxbridge, Waddington and Broughton.