Cyber winner

by Mark Rowe

A new UK Cyber Security Champion was announced at the weekend, at the Cyber Security Challenge UK Awards in Bristol. Stephen Miller, a 28 year old chemist from Hertfordshire beat thousands of registered candidates and navigated several online and face-to-face competitions over the past year to claim the prize. Stephen works as a Lab Team Manager at a pharmaceutical company overseeing the testing and manufacture of their clinical drugs. He has been playing the Challenge since it launched in 2010.

He now receives his choice of rewards from a collection of prizes worth over £100,000 that includes industry training courses and access to industry events. Alongside this there will be opportunities for paid internships and the offer of university bursaries.

The runner up was Steve Jarvis, 24 from Southampton, who works as part of the IT team for a hedge fund and again has had no formal cyber security training.

Speaking after receiving his prize Miller said:  “To have won the Cyber Security Challenge UK is amazing. It’s a result that gives me huge confidence to start applying this expertise to protect information and data in my own workplace. It’s also a powerful message to anyone who might question whether the Challenge is for them. I came to this competition in 2010 with no background in cyber security and yet my own interest in the area, coupled with the experience I have built up playing the Challenge competitions, has resulted in me winning the whole thing.”

Stephanie Daman, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK said: “Stephen’s success in the Challenge, as a chemist with no formal training in this profession, is a powerful demonstration of the hidden talent that exists in people from across all types of professional backgrounds. Identifying and nurturing this talent is vital for the success of UK PLC as even sectors as seemingly unconnected as pharmaceuticals contain vital intellectual property that must be protected. The Challenge exists not only to identify skilled people for the traditional security industry, but also serves to highlight to organisations the security skills within their own teams. We and then give those talented individuals confidence and exposure to professional training to improve the security practises of their own day-to-day operations.”

This year’s masterclass was developed by the cyber security teams at HP and Cassidian Cyber Security. It saw 40 finalists take on the role of cyber professionals at a fictitious technology communications supplier to a Formula 1 racing team, who had been hacked in the lead to a race.

Candidates had to spot signs of malicious attacks and come up with the best solutions, both technical and policy based, to fix them. Despite the setting of motor sport, the competition was designed to be highly representative of real issues facing cyber-security people working in most sectors across industry and government.

Jonathan Bathurst, Cyber Lead, UK Public Sector at HP said: “To succeed in this competition and become the UK’s new cyber security champion, Stephen has had to demonstrate not only exceptional technical skills but also an ability to relate them to a common business scenario. This requires an ability to weigh up risk, take into account budgets and operational limitations and be able to present a coherent case to a non-technical audience with sensible measures that are in the best interest of the organisation for the future. It is this skill set that employers value highest of all and the competition was designed to identify.”

Roy Matthews, Cassidian Cyber Security’s Cyber Defence Lead said: “Whilst we wish Stephen all the best in his future and hope he finds the job to match his skills, we strongly believe that everyone who had the chance to play yesterday now better understands the reality of working in this industry. We hope is that they enjoyed tackling what they were faced with and will now make use of their undoubted talent by pursuing a career in this exciting sector.”

The ceremony also saw Cyber Security Challenge CEO, Stephanie Daman announce a number of new initiatives and competitions for the fourth iteration of the challenge. These include:

· an education programme – including competitions designed for school pupils through to regional cyber camps delivered in partnership with local universities.

· More competitions – the Challenge competition for 2013 / 14 is covering subjects as diverse as mobile forensics, incident response, malware identification, and software vulnerabilities.

· Cyber Security Challenge app – The Challenge launches its first app, which can be downloaded from the iTunes store and is available on iOS and Android. The app will provide regular competitions, news and an access point to clear guidance on cyber security careers. It has been launched with a new cipher from PwC, available through the app.

· Masters course bursaries from the IET –– The Institute of Engineering and Technology has agreed to provide full bursaries for masters courses in cyber security at three UK universities for next year’s Challenge candidates.

· Cyber Security Challenge Alumni – The Challenge will unveil a programme for past candidates who wish to mentor new competitors, as well opportunities to design their own competition or games.

Judy Baker, founder of the Cyber Security Challenge UK said: “The schools’ programme is about expanding our already excellent candidate-base by attracting competitors from across the learning timeline. We aim to provide them with resources and touch-points where they can develop their skills and learn about the profession as they start to think about career options. We will also have a presence at universities to help undergraduate and postgraduates hone their skills and make that first step into the working world by providing a platform for them to demonstrate their talent in front of the UK’s leading employers. Building cyber skills for the UK is one of the four main objectives of the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Strategy. This expansion of the Challenge’s reach, coupled with our ever-evolving competitions programme and growing prize pot means that the Challenge will continue to play a vital role in achieving this ambition.”

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