PwC’s UK headquarters has just hosted a unique cyber forensics investigation carried out by members of the public. The competition, which is the latest in the series from the Cabinet Office-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK, tasked a group of 22 amateur cyber defenders with stopping a simulated cyber terror strike on a fictitious multinational energy giant.
The staged attack replicated the same techniques used by real cyber criminal gangs while contestants were immersed in a scenario mirroring PwC’s role in dealing with both the technical detail as well as the high stakes business fall-out which can follow such incidents.
Participants were provided with a forensics lab-style environment in which to operate and given authentic PwC cyber forensics technology to investigate and stop the mock attack.
Once the teams of candidates – who had been selected after six months of virtual qualifying rounds – identified the potential ‘holes’ that could be exploited by the cyber terrorist group, they then reported their findings and proposed actions before a board of PwC executives.
Andrew Miller, cyber security director at PwC, said: “PwC’s recent CEO survey revealed cyber security as one of the Top Three concerns for business leaders. As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve and cyber moves up the Boardroom agenda, the time is now right to attract new talent into the industry.”
Expanding on that theme, Miller added: “Having the technical know-how to defend against and respond to cyber incidents is essential, but it’s equally important to develop the soft skills needed to thrive in a business environment. To build a successful career in the cyber industry, individuals will have to be able to communicate the risk and be confident in finding solutions to often complex problems.”
Commenting specifically on the Cyber Security Challenge UK, Miller stated: “This competition brings together some of the brightest cyber talent in the country to help raise the profile of cyber security as an attractive career choice. We want to inspire the next generation of cyber professionals while also identifying well-rounded and talented individuals.”
Team 4 – made up of Andy Snowball, Steve Haughton, Jeremy Fox and David Betteridge – was eventually crowned the winning team on the day, in turn taking home a variety of prizes (including an AR Drone 2.0 for each of them).
Jeremy Fox, an ex-financial trader-turned-software developer, explained: “I realised today there’s a lot more to cyber than just the technical side of security. There’s a different edge to it. You can be a detective finding little pieces of evidence, putting them together and building the story. Even in the lift on the way up to the Boardroom we were arguing over who actually was the guilty party!”
2015 Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass Final
In addition to the winning team, ten participants qualified for the 2015 Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass Final based on an assessment of their individual contributions.
Assessors included experts from QinetiQ, the National Crime Agency, GCHQ, Airbus Group and JustASC.
The successful qualifiers were Tim Fletcher, Paul Richard Taylor, John Fearnely, Paul O’Neill, Matt Finch, Jeremy Fox, David Betteridge, Andrew Snowball, Antony Semonella and Oliver Rumbelow.
The Masterclass will bring together an industry consortium including BT, GCHQ, NCA, Lockheed Martin, Juniper and Airbus Group, the constituent members of which have been working collectively for nearly a year now to design the most realistic cyber terror simulation ever staged in the UK.
Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “In Davos, we saw how highly cyber security has climbed up the political agenda, notably in respect of the threat it poses to our Critical National Infrastructure. While technologies and regulation can play their part in the solution, we will lose the fight against a growing cyber criminal world if we don’t find enough high quality people to make sure the Internet is a safe place for us all to enjoy.”
Daman added: “The scenario PwC has created so realistically here is not just to ‘sell’ the industry as a great career option to our candidates but also an accurate representation of where cyber security is going.”
Recently, the Cyber Security Challenge UK launched its 2014-2015 programme of online and face-to-face cyber games by introducing a new enemy – the fictitious Flag Day Associates – via a simulated threat video that warned of future cyber attacks against the UK.
This PwC contest is the latest in a series of competitions throughout the year to investigate the fabricated cyber terror group and will culminate with the aforementioned 2015 Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass Final.