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Cybercenturion security competition launches in UK to help form future cyber army

Aims to inspire young people towards careers in cyber security
Mon Aug 11 2014, 10:56
Toy soldiers on keyboard representing cyber security

THE CYBER SECURITY CHALLENGE has partnered with US defence contractor Northrop Grumman to bring the Cyber Patriot competition to the UK - an education programme that has previously seen success in the US - to encourage kids to pursue careers in cyber security and help build a bigger British pool of cyber security talent.

Called "Cybercenturion in the UK", the programme, which claims to have already engaged over 250,000 cyber defence professionals in the US, aims to inspire young people towards cyber security careers by getting them to take part in competitions and preparing them to tackle possible future cyber attacks.

"It will be a way for anyone interested in the world of cyber security to get their first real experience of the scenarios and challenges existing professionals have to undertake on a daily basis" said Cyber Security Challenge UK.

Created by the US Air Force Association (AFA) and sponsored by the Northrop Grumman Foundation, Cyber Patriot was designed to "inspire young people towards careers in cyber security" as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It's objective has now been shared with the Cyber Security Challenge, which has been working with academia, government and industry since 2010 to build a programme of competitions and initiatives.

"The partnership agreement brings together Northrop Grumman with understanding of how to build new ways to inspire and nurture future cyber talent at all ages," the Cyber Security Challenge said.

"The result will be a competition designed specifically for those people who have the desire to be cyber professionals but who have yet to find a way to apply their knowledge to the real challenges existing professionals face."

The team competition begins in October with a practise round, followed by two competition rounds - one later the same month, and one in January 2015. It will sit between the existing Cyber Security Challenge schools programme for secondary schools and the main competition programme.

"As a result, anyone seeking to learn cyber defence skills or enhance and test their existing cyber skills will now have a seamless pathway to follow, starting with school learning, moving through their first application of their knowledge to real cyber scenarios, and onwards to full scale cyber security competitions designed to move people into the sector as professionals," the Cyber Security Challenge said.

Played by teams of between four and six people, Cybercenturion will ensure that each team must include an adult as the liaison between the organisers and the participants. The participants must be 18 years or under when the competition is held.

The competition consists of two rounds. Both rounds involve downloading a virtual computer image full of vulnerabilities that could present opportunities for a cyber criminal. The teams have approximately six hours, within a window of approximately two days to identify and fix these vulnerabilities. The game runs on an internal clock so judging can be based both on the vulnerabilities identified and fixed and the time taken to complete the task.

Different scores are assigned to each vulnerability depending on its complexity with an increase from basic to advanced level weakness as teams move from the first to the second round. The scores from both rounds are combined to create a final result and the top six teams will advance to a face to face showdown in April 2015.

The prizes on offer consist of career enhancing opportunities such as internships at Northrop Grumman and places at industry conferences.

The programme is yet another way in which the UK is looking to improve its future cyber security expertise. Earlier this month, GCHQ announced the certification of six Master's degree programmes in cyber security as online attacks become increasingly more prevalent.

When he visited GCHQ in July, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said that accreditation of the courses marked "another significant step in the development of the UK's knowledge, skills and capability in all fields of cyber security". µ


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