A two-day event on 14-15 March saw the culmination of a year-long competition to find the future experts with the cyber security skills the country needs to stay at the cutting edge in today’s digital world.
The final of the Cyber Security Challenge, a competition sponsored by GCHQ, BT, the National Crime Agency – which includes the National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) – and others, took place in the appropriate setting of the Churchill War Rooms (pictured), an underground bunker in central London which is part of the Imperial War Museum. It provided an atmospheric backdrop for the competition, with war sirens howling and red lights flashing as candidates received new information to help them investigate the cyber incident that was unfolding.
Experts from GCHQ contributed to the event by giving a technical steer to the scenario the candidates faced.
Opening the event, Cabinet Minister Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, said: “We can never be complacent and there’s much work still to do – and there always will be, this will always be a work in progress – but over the past few years cyber security has rapidly moved up the agenda of company boards. UK businesses are now far better placed to manage the risks that exist.”
A previous finalist of the Cyber Security Challenge also spoke at the launch event. The challenge helped him go on to a full time career in cyber security, starting with a summer placement at GCHQ.
Reflecting on his experience, he said: “It was very eye opening. It’s an incredibly exciting place to work; full of great people. It's amazing to know your work is of national importance.”
The event finished up on Saturday evening with an awards ceremony, at which 19-year-old Cambridge University student Will Shackleton took the top prize after the final Masterclass event.
Will told computer press: “It’s a big surprise and a huge honour. I never considered a career in cyber security before taking part in the challenge but playing their competitions and meeting the industry leaders has shown me there are exciting jobs which need filling.
“I’m convinced security is an area I want to pursue and I can’t wait to take what I have learnt from the challenge into my university studies and summer internship, and eventually into a job where I can do this stuff for real.”