The UK's first national Cyber Security Challenge has succeeded in its quest to find hidden talent, with a postman from Wakefield taking top honours in the competition.
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Dan Summers has been hailed by security minister Pauline Neville-Jones (pictured) as the UK's first Cyber Security Champion after he beat 25 other finalists in the ultimate challenge in Bristol.
Finalists, who represent the cream of amateur UK cyber security talent, were called upon to demonstrate a combination of technical and business skills in a simulated corporate security scenario developed by Cassidian and Hewlett Packard.
Working in teams, the finalists had to improve security inside a representation of a modern company, which included board members who had to be kept happy.
Within his team, Summers was tasked with developing security policies and advising decision-makers on training requirements, while protecting the company's network from constant and increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, and managing the various needs of the company employees involved in making critical business decisions.
"This was the most intense and rewarding experience of my life," said Summers, after receiving his award. "I'm just so glad I did this. Having met the people in the industry and seeing how capable and welcoming they are, I'd love to work alongside them so I'll be looking closely at all the opportunities that have developed as a result of my involvement with the challenge."
Stuart Rennie, a 17-year-old college student from Cambridgeshire with no formal security training or business experience, took second place.
"We made sure the Masterclass was the most realistic and challenging test these competitors have faced so far, and so it was great to see so many do so well," said Bryan Lillie, head of cyber security customer solutions centre at Cassidian. "It highlights just how much untapped talent there is out there and how, through the challenge, we have a great new channel to discover it."
As an employer, said Lillie, the traditional routes give people computing skills, but not cyber security skills. "What we are looking for is a particular mindset, the ability to solve problems and think like an attacker, and the challenge has been good at identifying people with these skills."
Andrzej Kawalec, chief technology officer, HP information security, said there has been a major transformation in the role of information security professionals and a sharp rise in the need for a larger and more dynamic cyber security workforce.
"Information technology is now so pervasive across our lives and underpins the social, political and financial fabric of modern society. We need to continually develop our capability and understanding of the cyber threat, which is why HP is delighted to be working alongside this initiative," he said.
As the overall winner, Summers was awarded a portfolio of prizes from the challenge's collection of more than 30 career-enhancing rewards, together worth more than £37,000.
They include a SANS Institute course and GIAC exam, an Open University course, opportunities to take exams with CREST, and memberships of the Institute of Information Security Professionals and the British Computer Society.
Individual prizes were also awarded to the best Masterclass team performance, as well as several additional awards for outstanding performances in the three feeder competitions that were used to select the 25 finalists out of 4,000 hopefuls.