International security firm PGI has challenged amateur cyber defenders in a digital forensics investigation to track down fictitious cyber activist group Flag Day Associates.
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The contest took place at PGI's Cyber Academy, which was launched in 2014 and offers training in techniques for cyber defence, cyber threat intelligence analysis and organisational leadership roles.
The simulated investigation, in collaboration with former UK government experts and military personnel, was the latest in the current series of competitions in the Cyber Security Challenge UK.
The Cyber Security Challenge launched its 2014/15 programme of online and face-to-face cyber games in May 2014 by introducing the Flag Day Associates.
In the latest challenge, amateur cyber defenders were split into teams and given real industry cyber security tools as part of a covert operation to investigate technology siezed from a crime scene.
The 21 amateur code breakers, chosen from six months of assessments, used a variety of investigative tools, including PGI’s real-time social media monitor Mi:Fusion.
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The teams were tasked with finding clues to the whereabouts of a member of the Cyber Security Challenge supposedly kidnapped by the Flag Day Associates.
The challenge tested contestants’ ability to implement fundamental cyber security industry techniques ranging from steganography to reverse-engineering, and use tools designed for crime investigations.
Daniel Chatfield, Steve Herron and Stefan Miles were crowned the winning team on the day, taking home a variety of prizes including iPads and Raspberry Pi computers.
Stefan Miles, 31, a software developer from Stourbridge said the Cyber Security Challenge UK has been a great way to develop his skills.
“Security is not the primary focus of my day job, so I have been reliant on virtualised systems I can create or find myself online to practice, but the challenge has been a step up,” he said.
Miles said the sophistication of the simulated environments in the challenge far exceeds anything that he has experienced before. “PGI have done a great job and I learned a lot from the day,” he added.
In addition to the winning team, 10 participants also qualified for the 2015 Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass Final, based on an assessment of their individual contributions by experts from BT, Raytheon, the National Crime Agency (NCA), Airbus Group, C3IA and GCHQ.
The latest set of finalists includes Steve Herron, Daniel Chatfield, Ryan Edge, Vincent Yiu, Matthew Levitt, Alan Abram, Matthew Watkins, Mark Stott and Oliver Bristow.
The masterclass will bring together an industry consortium including BT, GCHQ, NCA, Lockheed Martin, Juniper and Airbus Group, which have been working for nearly a year to design the most realistic cyber terror simulation ever staged in the UK.
"PGI's unique expertise in the delivery of operations that straddle security's cyber and physical domains has hopefully opened our candidates eyes to the potential value of their skills sets in these high criticality environments,” said Cyber Security Challenge UK chief executive Stephanie Daman.