Chemist Stephen Miller named as the 2013 winner of the Cyber Security Challenge
Chemist Stephen Miller named as the 2013 winner of the Cyber Security Challenge

Chemist Stephen Miller has followed a postman and student as the third winner of the Cyber Security Challenge.

Miller told SC Magazine that he was "still surprised" and was delighted to be "at the top of the pile".

 A 28-year-old team leader within the labs at GlaxoSmithKline, Miller said that he manages a team of 13 people and has some personal background in programming. He originally entered the first challenge, which was won by postman Dan Summers.

He said: “I use IT as part of my labs software, but I do not have any responsibility for IT here. I have got a background web development and Google Maps APIs but this was my interest in IT generally, and I saw this and thought ‘why not enter and see how far I get' in the first year. I got the email again last year and thought why not have a second shot.”

Miller praised the challenge in changing to include more business skills and in replicating real-world scenarios, saying the competition was more rounded and did not just focus on skills but on content.

“This shows that you don't need to work in the IT industry or have a background in hacking or cyber security or whatever to do this, it is about business skills and communications,” he said.

Miller, a chemistry graduate from the University of Bath, said that he did not plan to move away from his current job immediately, but instead use his experience internally at GlaxoSmithKline. He said that further down the line there was potential to change, but he did not plan to make any rash decisions.

Roy Matthews, cyber security senior engineer at Cassidian, sponsor and organiser of the final challenge, told SC Magazine that the changes were not a move away from something ‘techie', but instead were to attract a wider range of people to enter. He said: “What we learned last time was that it should have a mixture of business and technical aspects to it so it takes in what we see every day and base this on real-life events that we see out there.”

Miller said that this became very clear and working for a pharmaceutical, this was something not too unfamiliar. Asked if he would recommend one of his team or others to enter next year, he said: “I think any industry can benefit from the business skills, soft skills, team work and anyone who wants to enter it will get a good experience from this.” 

Miller receives his choice of rewards from a collection of career-enhancing prizes worth over £100,000 that includes industry training courses and access to industry events. Alongside this there will be opportunities for paid internships and the offer of university bursaries.

This year's Masterclass was developed by the cyber security teams at HP and Cassidian Cyber Security. It saw 40 finalists take on the role of cyber professionals at a fictitious technology communications supplier to a Formula 1 racing team, who had been hacked in the lead up to a big race.

Candidates had to spot signs of malicious attacks and come up with the best solutions, both technical and policy-based, to fix them. Despite the glamorous setting of motor sport, the competition was designed to be highly representative of real world issues facing professionals working in most sectors across industry and government.

Stephanie Daman, CEO of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “Miller's success in the challenge, as a chemist with no formal training in this profession, is a powerful demonstration of the hidden talent that exists in people from across all types of professional backgrounds.

“Identifying and nurturing this talent is vital for the success of UK companies as even sectors as seemingly unconnected as pharmaceuticals contain vital intellectual property that must be protected. The challenge exists not only to identify skilled people for the traditional security industry, but also serves to highlight to organisations the security skills within their own teams.

“We then give those talented individuals confidence and exposure to professional training to improve the security practises of their own day-to-day operations.”