The Cyber Security Challenge UK has launched its first competition, testing participant's ability to detect hacker activity on Linux systems.

Sponsored by Sophos, the Linux Forensics Challenge will test competitors' knowledge of malicious attacks and their ability to prevent them on the open source system. Sophos said that it was asked to develop the competition in response to candidate feedback from the previous year's competitions, and to encourage development of the skills that employers require.

James Lyne, director of technology strategy at Sophos, said: “Because of a lack of ‘malware' compared to other platforms, companies assume that these systems are eminently secure and entrust them with their most sensitive data. However, in reality the dangers are still there, they are just different from those faced by conventional PC systems.

“Many of the institutions that underpin our economy put their faith in this technology to protect their data. With the use of Linux increasing, the future of UK plc falls into the hands of those with the expertise to identify attacks on these systems and improve their security going forward.

“However employers are finding it hard to identify these skills. They are often not covered in school or university courses, which can't keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of internet technology. Without a formal academic path, it's difficult for employers to identify those with the right skills and for potential employees to demonstrate they have them.”

Judy Baker, director of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “One thing we learnt from our first set of challenges was that Linux was the operating system of choice for many of our candidates. In their feedback, many candidates suggested that we develop a competition on Linux.

“With employers searching for people with expertise on these systems, we knew we had to put something together and Sophos took up the baton. When we announced the Sophos Linux Forensics Challenge all 100 initial places were filled almost immediately and we have had to add extra spaces to meet the demand.”

In the competition, candidates will be tasked with detecting the activity of hackers on simulated Linux systems. They will also be asked to make recommendations to prevent similar attacks in the future. The overall winner will be amongst those awarded ‘career enhancing' prizes, whilst a number of successful candidates will qualify for the next stage, the Sophos Malware Hunt.

Once at that stage, competitors will be asked to identify and explain a range of malicious code from the vaults at SophosLabs in a bid to prevent data theft and system failure.