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UK Cyber Security Challenge zeroes in on software developers

Warwick Ashford

The UK national Cyber Security Challenge has launched another competition aimed at finding software developers to defend critical national infrastructure.

The move comes in response to an increasing number of cyber-attacks aimed at industrial plants and other infrastructure.

Last month, MI5 chief Jonathan Evans said the intelligence agency was fighting astonishing levels of cyber-attacks on UK government and industry, claiming that one London company lost £800m in revenue as a result of such an attack. 

The competition, designed as a series of challenges, will complement the existing cyber security competitions that focus on network protection.

The new competition, developed by (ISC)2 and QinetiQ, is aimed at getting software developers to think about security as they are creating applications and will tackle software vulnerabilities that enable attacks on businesses and infrastructure.

The first round of the competition will be online and require entrants to find the answers to a series of questions.

The top 30 entrants will then be invited to take part in a series of face-to-face tests in a computer lab at QinetiQ. They will be teamed up with other entrants and tasked with securing the systems protecting a simulated top-secret facility.

“Through this competition, we are working to raise awareness amongst software and systems developers at every level of the role they play in secure software development," said John Colley, managing director for (ISC)2 in Europe.

Security instincts will be just as important as technical skills, as candidates prove they can effectively research and anticipate requirements for security at the same rapid rate at which software is developing, he said.

According to Colley, for too long, software that underpins business and much of our most vital critical national infrastructure has been written without appreciation for the need for security.

"Those with the right instincts have a significant opportunity to demonstrate new skills that are incredibly relevant today. We hope this competition will attract, identify and nurture new talented individuals to work in this field," he said.

Neil Cassidy, practice lead, cyber defence at QinetiQ said: "Cyber criminals are increasingly developing the capabilities to manipulate the software used to control key security systems.”

Attacks like Stuxnet highlight the fundamental impact which these attacks can have on national infrastructure, from power stations to military installations, he said.

"Through this competition we aim to provide the software developers of the future with experience of what it takes to secure software systems and the impact any failures can have," said Cassidy


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