Pharma chemist crowned 2013 UK cyber security champion

A 28-year-old pharmaceutical chemist has won the 2013 UK Cyber Security Challenge

A 28-year-old pharmaceutical chemist from Hertfordshire has won the 2013 UK Cyber Security Challenge.

Stephen Miller beat thousands of registered candidates and went through several online and face-to-face competitions over the past year to claim the prize.

Miller, who has had no formal training in cyber security and works as a lab team manager at a pharmaceutical company, won the title in the competition final in Bristol at the weekend.

He has been competing in the UK Cyber Security Challenge since it launched in 2010, building up his skills and knowledge along the way.

The winner receives a choice of rewards from a collection of career-enhancing prizes that include industry training courses, access to industry events, internships and university bursaries.

The runner-up was Steve Jarvis, 24, from Southampton, who works as part of the IT team for a hedge fund. He, too, has no formal cyber security training.

On winning the title, Miller said: “It’s a result that gives me huge confidence to start applying this expertise to protect information and data in my own workplace.”

 Stephanie Daman, CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK, said Miller’s victory is a powerful demonstration of the hidden talent that exists in people from across all types of professional backgrounds.

“Identifying and nurturing this talent is vital for the success of UK PLC, as even sectors as seemingly unconnected as pharmaceuticals contain vital intellectual property that must be protected,” she said.

Daman said the competition is not only aimed at identifying skilled people for the traditional security industry, but also serves to highlight to organisations the security skills within their own teams.

“We give those talented individuals confidence and exposure to professional training to improve the security practices of their own day-to-day operations,” she said.

This year’s final was developed by the cyber security teams at HP and Cassidian Cyber Security.

To become the UK new cyber security champion, Miller has had to demonstrate exceptional technical skills and an ability to relate them to a common business scenario

Jonathan Bathurst, HP

It saw 40 finalists take on the role of cyber professionals at a fictitious technology communications supplier to a Formula 1 racing team that had been hacked in the lead-up to a big race.

Candidates had to spot signs of malicious attacks and come up with the best solutions, both technical and policy based, to fix them.

Jonathan Bathurst, cyber lead, UK public sector at HP, said that to become the UK new cyber security champion, Miller has had to demonstrate exceptional technical skills and an ability to relate them to a common business scenario.

“This requires an ability to weigh up risk, take into account budgets and operational limitations and be able to present a coherent case to a non-technical audience with sensible measures that are in the best interest of the organisation for the future. It is this skill set that employers value highest of all and the competition was designed to identify,” he said.

At the awards ceremony, Daman announced a number of new initiatives and competitions for the fourth UK Cyber Security Challenge, which is already open for registration.

These include:

  • The Challenge’s first dedicated education programme, including competitions designed for school pupils through to regional cyber camps delivered in partnership with local universities.
  • More competitions, covering subjects as diverse as mobile forensics, incident response, malware identification and software vulnerabilities.
  • A Cyber Security Challenge app for iOS and Android that will provide regular competitions, news on the challenge and a simple access point to clear guidance on cyber security careers.
  • Masters course bursaries from the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET).
  • A dedicated programme for past candidates who wish to mentor new competitors, as well opportunities to design their own competition or games.

Judy Baker, founder of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, said that building cyber skills for the UK is one of the four main objectives of the UK government’s National Cyber Security Strategy.

“This expansion of the Challenge’s reach, coupled with our ever-evolving competitions programme and growing prize pot, means the Challenge will continue to play a vital role in achieving this ambition,” she said.

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