Cyber Security Challenge announces cipher winner and talks of the continuing skills gap

Opinion by Dan Raywood

This week saw the Cyber Security Challenge announce new winners, sponsors and tasks. SC Magazine was among the attendees at a gala evening.

This week saw the Cyber Security Challenge announce new winners, sponsors and tasks. SC Magazine was among the attendees at a gala evening.

Following the opening of the application process for the 2011/12 Cyber Security Challenge, the winner of last year's cipher contest was announced as unemployed programmer Senad Zukic.

Talking to SC Magazine, Zukic explained that he had entered the first Cyber Security Challenge, which he had heard of through BBC News. He said: “I looked at it, saw the cipher picture, did it and submitted it. I didn't think much of it as I only got 20 out of 30 but then completed another cipher that was for professionals and because of this I re-read up on cryptography.

“It was great getting back into it as I did it all a few years ago. I did a degree in programming and an MSc in information security but there I did a lot of theory.”

He said he was shocked to have been declared the winner of the cipher contest and was looking for a full time job in the sector as a programmer.

The ciphers, created by PwC with additional ‘treasure hunts' designed by Sophos, were launched at the start of last year's challenge with a code-breaking exercise. Jay Abbot, director of threats and vulnerability management praised his team for creating the contests and said that ideas were created with sponsor conversations.

Talking to SC Magazine, he said: “It is our job to steer the direction in the right direction to what people want. At the finals we got an idea of what people want and we realised last year that there were no Linux challenges so we have added some this year.

“We also have some tests on penetration testing and that was the most popular competition, so we have listened to what people want and do our best to find it. This year is more themed so some streams are more complex, we are pushing ideas of working within a budget and showing how security can be tangible as a career. It is my job to make sure that happens.”

Adrian Seccombe, information security lecturer at Surrey University and Jericho Forum board member, said that he thought the efforts of the Cyber Security Challenge were very good and he was encouraging students to participate.

He said: “We are trying to get students into it as we want to get them more aware and thinking about security.”

Cyber Security Challenge director Malcolm John said that the intention was to get people engaged with the challenge so that they can improve the quality and quantity of the security industry.

He said: “Senior managers are shaping the content so that we are addressing real world issues. We use social media to promote this and hopefully people are getting inspired.”

Cyber Security Challenge director Judy Baker said that there was a bigger problem of a shortage of skilled people in the industry and feedback they had showed that some people were unable to employ as there was no sufficient talent.

Speaking on the skills shortage, Richard Phelps, global HR management consulting practice leader at PwC said that talent management has been a key area for the last few years, and it was more of a problem than financial issues.

“We are energising people for work but not with the right skills, the millenialls knowledge of technology is quite unique. For this industry it is as critical to manage as other parts of the business,” he said.

“Where do we get people from? Think about the employer brand, can you attract what you need? Are you paying people properly? Are you deploying people properly? It is critical and an area for industry to get clarity on how to recruit, develop and retain.”

Last year's Cyber Security Challenge was won by Wakefield postman Dan Summers who it was revealed has now been employed by the Post Office as an information security technical advisor.


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