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The University of Cambridge is hosting a third inter-university ethical hacking challenge as part of its efforts to inspire students to join the cyber security profession.
Inter-ACE 2018 will bring together more than 130 potential cyber warriors from 18 of the UK’s top cyber security universities to demonstrate their cyber defence skills in two days of competition from 16 March.
The competition is the largest ethical hacking challenge for university students in the UK, and is hosted by Cambridge University in partnership with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), with sponsorship from BT, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks and security consultant firm Context IS.
At stake is a £10,000 prize and the chance to compete against US peers in the Cambridge2Cambridge contest at the end of June. This transatlantic competition was launched in 2015 by the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts to foster greater cyber security collaboration between the two countries.
Inter-ACE 2018 competitors will be divided into 34 teams and will face more than 20 cyber defence challenges, including the defence of a virtual city against a simulated cyber attack. Throughout Inter-ACE, the organisers said students will need to use skills such as being able to reverse-engineer malware, break into online applications and decode protected communications.
University of Cambridge professor and Inter-ACE competition founder Frank Stajano said the challenge will help to attract more people to the industry and look to address its current skills shortage.
“Inter-ACE gives future cyber security professionals the opportunity to test their skills against the best and meet others in their field, as well as potential employers. This is about engaging with the next generation of cyber security talent and raising awareness of this vital, interesting and exciting career choice,” he said.
Read more on skills shortage
- Cyber security experts say the industry needs to market itself better and make it easier to switch careers, in order to address its skills shortage.
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- The lack of women in cyber security recruitment campaigns and the gender pay gap are contributing to the skills gap, according to industry experts.
According to a study by (ISC)2, up to 1.8 million information security-related jobs worldwide will be left unfilled by 2022, while in Europe alone, that number is expected to be around 350,000.
Stajano said he agreed with NCSC chief Ciaran Martin that it is a matter of “when, not if” the UK will be hit with a large cyber attack. “And we must recognise that the UK faces an urgent skills shortage,” he said. “This competition is about engaging with the next generation of cyber security talent, and raising awareness of this vital, interesting and exciting career choice.”
In addition to giving future cyber security professionals the opportunity to test their skills against the best and meet others in their field and future employers, Stajano said the competition is aimed at making the good work of cyber security professionals much more visible.
“Like other initiatives, such as NCSC’s CyberFirst programme, the interesting experiences of the University students taking part in this year’s event will help to inspire those currently at school to consider a rewarding career in this field,” he said.
Chris Ensor, deputy director for skills at the NCSC, said this next generation of talent will play a key role in addressing growing cyber security concerns.
“The cyber threat is growing, and so making sure young people have the cyber security skills to help protect us has never been more important,” he said. “We at the NCSC hope the entrants will be inspired, and can perhaps inspire others, into starting a thrilling career defending the UK and helping to make it the safest place to live and work online.”