A massive cyber-terror attack simulation is underway aboard HMS Belfast, in a bid to find the next generation of cyber security professionals
Hunkered around tables in a stuffy cabin aboard the battleship HMS Belfast, 42 of the most talented amateur ‘cyber defenders’ in the UK are racing to avert a plot by a cyber terrorist group to seize control of a naval gun system, which is pointing at London’s City Hall.
These individuals are battling against the clock to find out how the group, known as the Flag Day Associates, broke into the network, and wrestle back control of the gun systems before it is too late.
They are also searching for similar ‘holes’ within the IT system of a water treatment and manufacturing facility to ensure the terrorist group is not able to infiltrate these as well.
This is the Cyber Security Challenge Masterclass – the culmination of more than 10 months of qualifying rounds for the Cyber Security Challenge UK, which aims to bring talented people into the cyber security profession and address a critical skills shortage.
Thousands of registered participants have been whittled down to 42 of the UK’s most talented amateur cyber defenders, and on Friday night one will be crowned the new Cyber Security Challenge UK Champion.
Although the cyber terrorist group is fictitious, and the attack itself no more than a simulation, the tension in the cabin is palpable. Those who excel in this challenge will be rewarded not only with glory, but with the possibility of a job in one of the country’s major defence organisations.
“Both government and business need skilled and talented people to feed the demand for better cyber security in the UK,” said Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office with responsibility for the Cyber Security Strategy and National Cyber Security Programme, whose department was one of the original founders of the Challenge.
“This competition is the biggest and best yet and events like this play an important role in helping provide the next generation of cyber professionals.”
While the winner is not guaranteed a job, it is no accident that the Challenge is developed and sponsored by a consortium of cyber experts, including BT, GCHQ, the National Crime Agency (NCA), Lockheed Martin, Airbus Group, PGI, C3IA and Palo Alto Networks.
Many of these organisations are crying out for talented people with an interest in cyber security and a desire to work in the industry, to help address the critical skills shortage that affects government bodies, businesses and citizens alike. Female cyber security professionals are in particularly short supply, with only one woman reaching the final of the Cyber Security Challenge.
Moreover, the security of critical national infrastructure is a growing concern as more systems are brought online, and physical services like telecommunications, power and utilities – as well as commercial logistics and supply chain networks – are increasingly linked to the internet.
“Fighting cyber crime is a vital part of safeguarding the security of people and businesses in the UK, and there are increasing opportunities in law enforcement for people with the right technical skills to continue their own development while helping to pursue criminals and protect the public,” said Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit.
“Previous Cyber Security Challenge competitors are already working with the NCA across a number of projects, and those involved in this year’s Masterclass have the best possible platform not only to showcase their talents, but also to learn more about how they can contribute to the UK’s cyber security in the real world.”
Now in its fifth year, the Cyber Security Challenge UK incorporates a range of competitions, including a schools-specific programme. Stephanie Daman, chief executive at the Cyber Security Challenge, said this was the largest and most realistic cyber-terror attack simulation yet.
The Masterclass runs over two days, and tests a wide variety of skills. While technical ability is key, candidates are also scored on their ability to operate within appropriate legal and ethical frameworks – a crucial skill for would-be cyber specialists.
Ms Daman said that around half of last year’s finalists are already in their first cyber security jobs, and the majority of the rest are well on their way, taking training courses, accreditations or internships to boost their CVs.
“There is no reason why all 42 of our finalists today can’t follow in their footsteps,” she said.
Registrations are open now to take part in next year’s programme, which will feature a range of brand new competitions, to be released over the coming months. Anyone can also visit the Challenge website, and assess their potential for a career in the cyber security industry, using the new ‘play-on-demand’ platform.
This article was written by Sophie Curtis from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.