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BT, GCHQ and NCA set challenge to find UK cyber defenders

Warwick Ashford

BT, government intelligence agency GCHQ and the new National Crime Agency (NCA) are to join forces to test the cream of the UK’s amateur cyber security talent to find the next generation of cyber defenders.

Experts from each organisation are to work together to design the final of this year’s Cyber Security Challenge UK, set to take place in March 2014.

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Stephanie Daman, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “To have such a diverse and high-profile combination of organisations working together to test the next generation of cyber security professionals suggests the final is going to be our most exciting yet.”

The final will test the skills of the UK’s most talented amateur cyber defenders in a two-day competition to find the latest UK cyber security champion.

Finalists will need to use technical, interpersonal and decision-making skills in a simulated work environment to solve the sort of problems cyber security professionals encounter every day.

Some 42 finalists have been identified during 10 months of virtual and face-to-face competitions, including the UK’s first civilian cyber security training camps held across England and Scotland in September 2013.

However, some places in the final are still open to any UK national not currently working as a cyber-security professional. To qualify, candidates must register with the challenge and prove their talent by playing one or more of the upcoming virtual qualifier competitions.

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 the shortage of UK cyber security practitioners.

Now in its fourth year, the challenge has grown its range of competitions to represent the variety of skills demanded in the profession and is backed by over 75 sponsors.

BT’s cyber director Bob Nowill said the Cyber Security Challenge and similar initiatives are key to encouraging people to develop their cyber skills and build a career in an interesting area of security.

Jonathan Hoyle, GCHQ's director general for government and industry cyber security, said competitors include a mix of self-taught talent who bring an unconventional and innovative approach to the challenges. 

“That innovation is really important to the UK in tackling cyber threats today and in the future,” he said.

Prizes for the competition include year-long placements at GCHQ to gain experience in fighting cyber crime.

With the sponsors’ support the challenge has handed out more than £200,000 of career enabling prizes to over 100 of the UK’s leading amateur cyber defenders, some of whom have moved into the profession.

Lee Miles, deputy head of the NCA, said the competition provided a unique opportunity to bring together some of the UK’s most talented amateurs in cyber security.

“These sorts of initiatives are vital for attracting talented people to consider careers in security and in law enforcement,” he said.


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