UK defence firm QinetiQ has challenged amateur cyber defenders in a realistic global online terrorist attack simulation.
The simulation was the latest in the current series of competitions in the Cyber Security Challenge UK and was based on recent real-world threats that have successfully infiltrated global corporations.
The Cyber Security Challenge launched its 2014/15 programme of online and face-to-face cyber games in May 2014 by introducing a new enemy, The Flag Day Associates.
The QinetiQ contest is the latest in a series of competitions throughout the year to investigate the fictional cyber-terror group.
The competition brought together 20 of the UK’s top amateur code breakers chosen from six months of intensive assessments.
They used industry-proven cyber security tools and techniques to intercept and prevent a real-time attack on an international publishing house.
Competitors investigated a major network breach, identified security vulnerabilities, analysed spear-phishing attacks and hunted down the source of the attack within a set time limit.
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The action was witnessed by leading defence experts and all the action was managed and tracked through QinetiQ’s Portal facility, which is mainly used for classified military trials and simulations.
The winning team comprised Robert Smith, a 22-year-old student from Manchester; Ese Oduyoye, a 36-year-old games tester from London; Jamie Hankins, a 19-year-old developer from Chepstow; and Mark Cole, a 19-year-old student from Southampton.
Judges were cyber security professionals from a range of leading cyber security firms including hosts QinetiQ, Airbus, the National Crime Agency (NCA), BT and JustASC.
The winners were awarded a variety of cyber security learning tools including a microprocessor and cyber security textbooks, and Amazon vouchers to spend on new computing equipment.
“I learned a lot from today’s experience,” said Mark Cole – the youngest constant and member of the winning team.
“What I learned today has made me more confident in this area and this will help me a lot in my course at Southampton University.
“Given what we did, the tasks we had to complete and what I achieved, I am now going to take more modules in cyber security at uni as well as looking at it more seriously as a career,” he added.
2015 Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass Final
In addition to the winning team, 10 other competitors also qualified for the 2015 Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass Final in March 2015.
The final will be another cyber terror simulation designed by an industry consortium including BT, GCHQ, NCA, Lockheed Martin, Juniper and Airbus Group.
QinetiQ is one of a number of UK companies to have recruited talented individuals identified by the Cyber Security Challenge UK through its programme of national competitions since its launch in 2010.
We created this competition to put some of the UK’s finest cyber talent to the test
Bryan Lillie, QientiQ
The aim of the competitions is to use simulated cyber games combined with career advice and mentoring programmes to plug an industry-wide cyber security skills gap in the UK.
QinetiQ chief technology officer Bryan Lillie said with the international cyber terror threat growing, it is vital the UK acts now to build up its cyber skills.
“We created this competition to put some of the UK’s finest cyber talent to the test and begin preparing the next generation who will defend the UK online,” he said.
Cyber Security Challenge UK chief executive Stephanie Daman said that while the competition was designed to be fun, it had a serious side.
“The prime minister recently said that cyber terror is one of the chief threats facing the UK and, by recreating real cyber terror attack scenarios, these contests help demonstrate how technically gifted young people can play a vital role in defending our country and our economy within a highly rewarding career,” she said.
Daman added the Cyber Security Challenge UK is working with some of the leading employers in the country on a range of programmes to help raise awareness of the great career opportunities in the cyber security field and provide the next generation of talent.