CyberCenturion crown goes to team from Gibraltar

CyberCenturion 2016, the competition which started with around 50 teams, was narrowed down to the final 10 who competed today at Bletchley Park for the crown.

Team G-SEC from Gibraltar: retiring from competition but hoping to inspire their peers to follow in their footsteps
Team G-SEC from Gibraltar: retiring from competition but hoping to inspire their peers to follow in their footsteps

A team from Gibraltar won the final round of the CyberCenturion 2016 competition held at Bletchley Park's National Museum of Computing today.

G-SEC, made up of boy's studying their A-levels at the Bayside School in Gibraltar, were revealed as the winners at the end of the all-day event held next door to a working replica of Colossus, the WWII-era computer which helped decode German ciphers.

A total of 10 teams and 53 competitors took part in today's competition, which was based on defending Cyber Patio, a fictional company that manufactures internet-connected garden furniture.

Teams had to analyse the company's network and find and fix security flaws across different operating systems. The scenarios were designed to mimic situations that can be found in thousands of businesses across the world today, especially in the rapidly growing internet of things market.

The finals were the culmination of three rounds of cyber-security challenges in which hundreds of teams from across the UK and overseas territories competed.  

CyberCenturion is sponsored by defence contractor Northrup Grumman and supported by Cyber Security Challenge UK and the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley. Northrup Grumman sponsors a similar competition for young cyber warriors in the US called CyberPatriot, created by the US Air Force Association, which was the model for CyberCenturion.

Aaron Baw, student team leader of team G-SEC, told SCMagazineUK.com that the team was really happy to win. “We've got a real sense of accomplishment after all the hard work. There were lots of late nights, weekly review sessions – we put a lot of effort into this.”

Although team G-SEC was successful this year, there's no certainty of success next year as the entire team are in their last year of A-levels. “But our hope is that we leave a legacy, especially for Gibraltar because there are other teams coming from there and our hope is that they will keep this going.”

Speaking earlier in the day before the winners were announced, Stewart Harrison, adult team leader of G-SEC, told SC that he was confident his team had done well. “The feedback I'm getting from them, the confidence I'm getting from them, they feel they have done really well,” he said.

The team has come together from Harrison's physics class at the Bayside School. He said competing from Gibraltar in a mainland UK event was never a problem for the team. “It's all online,” he said, “so as long as you have a good internet connection, anyone can compete.”

He said although it's small – the population of Gibraltar is 30,000 – but the territory has some “very good people who are good at cyber-security”.

“We compete against teams from much bigger countries and we really hold our own,” he said.

National Museum of Computing trustee Margaret Sale, who has been involved with the museum since its inception, told SC that the museum was proud to support CyberCenturion. “This being the home of British computing, let's face it Colossus might not be like a modern computer but it's now recognised as the first semi-programmable electronic computer,” she said. “And it was doing very much what those children are doing today: it was trying to crack the important problems.”

“CyberCenturion is almost what I call a bridging competition and it hits an age group that we have not had much for in the past,” said Stephanie Daman, CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK. “We have our schools programmes which really engage and raise awareness and then we have our national competition which tends to be popular with people older than the 16 to 18 age range and we didn't have much in between, and Centurion is perfect for this: it's a proper cyber-security competition, they actually identify vulnerabilities and they learn to defend and they learn all the things that are the perfect starting points for a cyber-security career.”

Daman told us that the competition had 50 teams register this year, which was double the number last year, the first year the competition had been run. “We are expecting it to grow and grow and grow,” she said.

Andrew Tyler, chief executive Europe at Northrop Grumman, told SC that the company's involvement in CyberCenturion was borne out of the company's involvement in CyberPatriot in the US.

“The thing that's really important about encouraging youngsters into this business is right here, right now, ourselves, our partner companies and our customers have run the well dry of cyber specialists in the UK. We have employed every single one of them so what we need to do is start growing the next generation of cyber-engineers and in the room next door, competing in the finals of CyberCenturion, are about 50 of exactly the type of kids who are going to be the next generation of cyber-engineers.”