This weekend Cyber Security Challenge UK hosted the final face-to-face competition of 2016, which saw 24 candidates use their cyber-security and coding skills to rescue the CEO of a fictitious energy company, whose company had been held ransom by cyber-criminals.
According to a press release from the company, the competition saw candidates battle against the clock and enter virtual reality using VR headsets to track down the perpetrator of the crime.
The attack mimicked one of today's most prevalent cyber vulnerabilities – the insider threat. Candidates were tasked to piece together suspicious activity to form a picture of the crime, artifactswhich involved using iPads to scan and create a 3D environment and artefactsand clues that would reveal who was behind the attack.
Their abilities were also tested as they investigated the code around compromised systems, and performed digital forensics and network analysis; proficiencies that are much sought after by the cyber-security industry.
In this scenario, the candidates played the role of cyber investigators and were given the latest tools used by cyber-security professionals to analyse the network of a fictional energy company called Acme Engineering, whose CEO had received a ransom email which indicated Acme's new product had been sabotaged.
The fictional criminals demanded one million bitcoins in order to guarantee a safe launch of the product, disruption of which would result in huge financial and reputational harm to the company.
The event, supported by National Grid and held at its headquarters, was the latest in the 2016 series of competitions for Cabinet Office-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK, to find and nurture the country's cyber prodigies and encourage them into the industry. The winners of this competition have progressed to the Masterclass final in November.
The winning group was team Margaret Sale, which consisted of Ben Caller, Callum Curry, Timothy Fletcher, Matthew Pickford and Steven Woodhall.
The top fourteen performing candidates from the competition have qualified for masterclass, including George Osborne, 17, from Reading, who was the day's top scorer and joint youngest contestant at the event.
“I'm delighted to have won the competition today. I really enjoyed the mix of technical and soft skills that we were tested on, and thanks to National Grid for hosting such an incredible event. I'm looking forward to see what Masterclass has in store!” said Osborne.
The candidates were closely monitored by a team of assessors from the Challenge, National Grid and a range of top cyber-security organisations, who judged the candidates against industry-agreed criteria to see if they demonstrate the skills required to join professional organisations.
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.
Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge UK said in the release: “The range of skills the cyber-security industry requires continues to grow, and our competitions always aim to test candidates on the latest skills that professional organisations require. These competitions can only take place with the support of our sponsor community, all of which are looking to hire the most outstanding talent. The industry is suffering from a skills gap, and it's through competitions like these that security teams can directly meet and potentially recruit the talented individuals out there.”
The Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass in November will pitch the top 42 candidates from across the competition against each other, to become the ultimate champion of 2016.