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Government backs national cyber policy and strategy competition

London is to host a national cyber policy and strategy competition, which has the backing of government, industry and academia

US international affairs think tank, the Atlantic Council, has announced the UK’s first cyber policy and strategy competition for university students.

Now entering its sixth year globally, the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is designed to provide students across academic disciplines with a deeper understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber crisis and conflict.

The first UK national competition is to be held at the BT Tower in London on 26 and 27 February 2018 with interdisciplinary teams from 15 UK universities taking part.

The teams will be judged by a panel of experts in in an interactive scenario exercise of an evolving cyber attack. The objective of the competition is to transform the perception of cyber security skills and help tackle the shortage of cyber security professionals.

Participants will follow the proven Cyber 9/12 competition format in presenting technical, policy and strategy options to steer decision makers from government and industry towards a successful outcome.

According to competition organisers, participants will have the opportunity to interact with expert mentors and high-level cyber professionals while developing valuable skills in policy analysis and presentation.

The competition has already engaged more than 1,000 students from universities in the US, UK, France, Australia, China, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Poland, Switzerland, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia.

Margot James, minister for digital and creative industries, said the competition could identify the cyber security talent of the future.

“We’re working hard to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, and this new initiative will complement our National Cyber Security Strategy to strengthen the talent pipeline and deliver a more diverse workforce,” she said.

By 2022, there will be 1.8 million unfilled cyber security jobs, according to the latest (ISC)2 global information security workforce study. In Europe, the shortfall is projected to be around 350,000, with the UK’s share of unfilled cyber security jobs expected to be around 100,000.

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The competition draws on the diverse skill sets of its participants as they are presented with a variety of scenario injects ranging from news reports, technical reports, intelligence reports and social media feeds.

As a team they must develop their joint understanding of the problem to develop potential solutions and give a verbal presentation to a senior judging panel, who will then question their solutions and score the team’s performance.

Three of the 15 teams will go through to a second round to compete for the £2,000 prize, while the remaining teams will be put to the test in a separate cyber crisis simulation scenario.

Pete Cooper, director of Cyber 9/12 UK and Atlantic Council fellow, said there is a vital need to develop and identify the cyber security talent of the future. 

“But the cyber security challenge we face is not just technical, it straddles all disciplines and sectors. Solutions cannot be found in technology alone and they cannot be solved by policy and strategy alone,” he said.

“Therefore, we have to find cyber policy and strategy expertise as well as technical expertise and reinforce the value of team work between them.”

Alongside the competition, a number of side events, presentations and a recruitment fair are planned to link competitors, partners and sponsors to support vital interaction across disciplines and domains of expertise in cyber security threats.

The competition is aimed at encouraging diversity and the utilisation of non-traditional skill sets to find the cyber security leaders of the future.

The London competition is sponsored by: Nominet, BT, Lloyds Banking Group, KPMG, CNC Communications, ReSolve Cyber, Aviation-ISAC, Cyber Defence Alliance, Zonefox, Yardpartners, HMG and the Royal United Services Institute.

The teams taking part in the competition are from the universities of Aberystwyth, Birmingham, Newcastle, Lancaster, Warwick, Edinburgh, Oxford, Bournemouth, Newcastle & Durham, Queen’s University Belfast, Oxford Brookes University, King’s College London, University College London, Royal Holloway, as well as a team from the UK Ministry of Defence.

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