This past weekend, BAE Systems, Her Majesty's Government Communications Centre (HMGCC) and Cyber Security Challenge UK hosted a national cyber-forensics investigation in London.
The staged attack which contestants were investigating replicated some of the emerging threats around smartphones and tablets, which are becoming increasingly valuable to hacking groups.
The contestants, selected from a series of national online qualifying rounds, were monitored by BAE Systems and HMGCC, who were both looking to recruit stand-out candidates.
This event, hosted at BAE Systems' office in London's Blue Fin Building, was the latest in the 2016 series of competitions for Cyber Security Challenge UK, backed by the Cabinet Office and aimed at unearthing the country's young talent.
The winners of this competition have progressed to the Masterclass final in November, also hosted by the Cyber Security Challenge UK.
The organisations staged a hyper-real working environment to test individual aptitude and performance by having the candidates take on the roles of government contractors investigating a high profile attack on a fictional secure payment app and website.
Players were given BAE Systems and HMGCC advice to pull apart the company's server, work out how to detect compromises on smartphones, search source files and report to the organisation's Board on their findings.
The tasks tested the teams' technical capabilities as well as demonstrate their soft skills to see if they have all the aptitudes needed to be successful in the industry.
Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge UK said: “The calibre of jobs on offer within cyber security is astounding, and with so many diverse roles available there is a chance for people to thrive and become hugely successful within the industry. These competitions throw candidates in the deep end and allow them to immerse themselves in the world of cyber security, allowing them to demonstrate their skills to potential employers and take the first steps towards becoming cyber security experts.”
Daman added, “cyber threats continue to plague many industries, and with a widening skills gap affecting businesses ability to hire staff, events like these provide the perfect opportunity for new talent to emerge and for businesses to see them in action.”
The competitors were closely monitored by a team of assessors a range of top cyber security organisations, who judged the candidates against varied criteria to see if they demonstrate the skills required to join their organisations.
Those who performed well will be invited to fast track technical interview stages with the host companies.
The select group of challengers were chosen after becoming top performers in qualifying games, hosted on the Challenge's Play-On-Demand platform (PoD).
The PoD system allows those interested in cyber-security to test their skills and knowledge using a pool of games designed by industry experts – there is still time to sign up and take part in this year's competition.
An HMGCC spokesman, said: “Our work involves the design and delivery of communication systems and technical solutions to protect national security at home and overseas, and finding people with the capabilities to keep delivering this is paramount.”
“Through initiatives such as the Cyber Security Challenge UK we can watch the future of the industry in action, and this gives us so much confidence as we see first-hand the talent that is available to us and the country as a whole. Our customers are various Government bodies, and we're growing fast thanks to their increasing demand for our services. Now we need even more future-focused people on board.”
The winning team was the Red team, which consisted of Andy Snowball and Lisa and James Benson. The top three highest scoring contestants out of the top ten who have qualified for Masterclass were Lisa, Michael Carr and Chris Bailey.
The top performers in this event qualified for the Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass in November, which pitches the top 42 candidates from across the competition against each other, to become the ultimate champion.
This year's competition will be hosted by multinational professional services network, PwC in collaboration with GCHQ, the Bank of England and the National Crime Agency.