The students were given a series of encryption challenges, network forensics and steganography tasks
The students were given a series of encryption challenges, network forensics and steganography tasks

This weekend, Cyber Security Challenge UK challenged the students of Bournemouth University, hosting a gruelling cyber-security competition, known as a ‘Capture the Flag' contest.

The competition involved teams from across the south coast, including Bournemouth University, Bournemouth and Poole College, Plymouth University, Barton Peveril College, University of Portsmouth, Blandford Navy and Signals.

The competition, designed to attract young talent into the cyber-security industry tasked students with securing points from a series of encryption challenges, network forensics and steganography tasks. These were designed to mirror the tasks that cyber-security professionals do daily, to test their problem solving skills and demonstrate what working in the industry would be like.

With a deficit of 1.5 million jobs in cyber-security expected by 2020 according to professional body (ISC)2, the Cyber Security Challenge runs a nationwide series of competitions and lessons designed to inspire young people to consider careers in cyber-security.

Contestants took part in a lock picking challenge hosted by BT, where they were taught the similarities between physical lock picking and unlocking files and passwords on computers highlighting the importance of physical security as well as cyber-security under increased threats via social engineering.

The challenge itself, designed by industry heavyweights Raytheon and the Whitehatters Academy put contestants under severe time pressure, and emphasised the importance of adhering to the strict ethical and legal checks that law enforcement must abide by in real life investigation.

The winning team of the day came from Bournemouth University, a team who dazzled with their cyber-security skills.

“By raising the profile of cyber-security through the use of interesting and fun competitions we are switching on a new generation of tech enthusiasts to the vast opportunities, within the fast paced world of cyber-security. We hope to see many of our competitors today in the industry in a few years' time.” said Debbie Tunstall, university programme manager at Cyber Security Challenge UK.

Vasilis Katos, professor and head of computing at Bournemouth Uni, said: “This was one of the most colourful CTF events, with the contestants coming from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds, from further education, universities, military and the navy. The festive mood was evident with the team named “Santa's Little Hackers”, wearing the traditional Santa's caps whilst attempting the physical lock picking challenge. What a day and what a way to end this year!”

The events are part of the Cyber Security Challenge UK Programme, which is backed by the Cabinet Office and provides bespoke teaching resources, designed by its sponsor consortium and partners, to help address the critical cyber-security skills gap by sparking interest in cyber-security and to help defend our national security.