UK defence contractor QinetiQ played host to a three-part, face-to-face contest in which the UK's best cyber-defence amateurs worked in teams to stop a realistic online terror attack simulation last weekend.

Contestants used real security tools to investigate a major network breach at a made-up company—seeking out security vulnerabilities, analysing spear-phishing attacks and hunting down the terrorist gang behind the attack. 

The simulation took place in the 6,000 square foot QinetiQ Portal, a facility that has been used for thousands of classified trials, events and experiments as a real-time modelling, simulation, analysis and experimentation (MSA&E) facility for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Simulated cyber-games, such as the one that took place this past weekend, are aiming to fill the UK's industry-wide cyber-security skills gap. Combining the simulated challenges with career advice, mentoring programmes and educational opportunities, the Cabinet Office hopes to inspire the current generation to choose careers in cyber-security.

“By recreating real cyber-terror attack scenarios, these contests help demonstrate how technically-gifted young people can play a vital role in defending our country and our economy within a highly rewarding career,” Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge UK, said in a statement. “We are working with some of the leading employers in Britain on a range of programmes to help raise awareness of the great career opportunities in this field and provide the next generation of talent.”

“I learned a lot from today's experience,” Mark Cole, a member of the winning team, commented on the event. “Given what we did, the tasks we had to complete, and what I achieved, I am now going to take more modules in cyber-security at Uni as its cyber is definitely something I am now looking at more seriously as a career.”

This news follows an agreement between the US and UK governments to work together on cyber 'war games' which simulate attacks against Wall Street and City of London banks.