Hackfu "prisoners"
Hackfu "prisoners"

Eighty-six IT professionals were guests of RC Prison Ashwell last weekend while they tried to figure out who among their number betrayed them.

That was the scenario behind this year's Hackfu competition, organised by MWR InfoSecurity. Now in its eighth year, the contest has grown from a tabletop exercise to this year's scenario involving a two-night stay in a former prison with actors employed to play prison guards. It follows last year's event which had a Wild West theme.

SCMagazineUK.com was given exclusive access to the event which was built around the premise of protecting national secrets. Watch our exclusive video report here: 

A host of challenges were laid on which the prisoners, who were divided into teams, had to solve in order to find the traitor and clear their names.

Most of the participants either work for MWR or one of its partner companies. However, a handful of the challengers were selected from a global competition held to identify new talent. Over 80 people completed the online challenge, from which seven were selected to attend Hackfu.

One of them was Courtney Pitcher, a final-year university student South Africa who told SCMagazineUK.com that he and a friend were delighted to have both won places on Hackfu.

“This is different than anything I'd ever done before. I was quite worried when I first got here because I saw people walking around in orange prison jumpsuits and there was barbed wire everywhere, so I thought, what have I got myself in for?” he said with a laugh.

Martyn Ruks, technical director at MWR InfoSecurity, told SC that inviting guests to the event was one of the things they were doing to help address the cyber-security skills gap

And he said it was important for there to be a broad range of tasks for the contestants. “We have challenges ranging across the spectrum of cyber security, so we have everything from hacking of hardware devices, effectively plumbing into hardware badges and radio hacking. We also have attacking infrastructure such as Windows and Unix environments. We have cryptographic and logic puzzles – effectively a whole range of challenges that will cover all of the key skills people need for working in the industry,” he said.

Watch our exclusive video report of the event at the top of this article.