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Cyber Security Challenge UK announces first University Challenge

Warwick Ashford

Four leading UK universities for Computer Science are taking part in a unique code-breaking competition as part of this year’s Cyber Security Challenge UK.

The computer science departments at the University of Bristol, University of Birmingham, University College London and Edinburgh Napier University have accepted the challenge to develop their own cipher or puzzle, based on encrypted messages.

The cipher will be released to other participating universities and challenge candidates to break in a four-week virtual tournament, starting 21 January.

A new cipher will released each week and is designed to inspire students who are particularly interested in entering cyber security careers and practising their skills.

The tournament will also act as a proof of concept for a series of university-on-university competitions that the Cyber Security Challenge is looking to run in the future.

The Cyber Security Challenge UK began in 2010, as three competitions run by a small group of supporters from industry, government and academia to address a skills gap in the cyber security profession.

Now, in its third year, the challenge has grown its range of competitions to better represent the variety of skills currently demanded within the profession.

The challenge is backed by around 50 sponsors and also acts as a source of guidance for those keen to enter the industry.

The University Cipher Challenge is being coordinated by the Cyber Security Challenge UK and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as part of their strategy to engage with the education community and highlight and develop talent in the UK’s student population.

A scoring system has been developed by cyber security professionals at PwC and each university will be marked in three categories: ingenuity of cipher design; successful completion of another university’s cipher; and least number of “cracks” by other challenge candidates.

“The UK has a world-class academic base in cyber security and this tournament represents a great opportunity for existing challenge candidates and new players to test the hard, code-breaking skills and out-the-box thinking that the cyber security profession requires,” said Stephanie Daman, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK.

“We are running this as a pilot with the ambition to encourage more university departments to take part in 2013/14 as we embark on a dedicated education programme featuring university-based cyber camps and a set of competitions specifically designed for students,” she said.


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