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Cyber Security Challenge UK Tasks Hackers With Energy Firm Defence

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Challenge sees amateurs battle to protect energy firm from cyber attacks, both internal and external

The UK’s effort to bolster its cyber security skills continues with the news that 42 amateur cyber security enthusiasts are competing in a Cyber Security Challenge UK event in East London.

The challenge will see the contestants attempt to defend a fictional global energy firm from cyber attacks, launched externally and internally.

Skills Shortage

cybersecuritychallenge2016The Cyber Security Challenge UK has been running annually for six years now as a way for this country to uncover desperately needed cyber security personnel.

The competition will be watched by experts from industry and government agencies looking to recruit more cyber security people. This is because a study from ISC has warned of a looming critical skills shortage, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million cyber security workers by 2020.

This year’s event is made up of 42 people, all of whom had to undergo a series of qualifying competitions over the year.

It has led to this year’s event in Shoreditch, and the people are tasked with defend a fictional energy company from live cyber-attacks in real time and investigate the causes of a mysterious data breach and the loss of £125 million.

The ‘Masterclass challenge’ was created by PwC and supported by GCHQ, NCA and the Bank of England.

And this is not just a fun competition. Participants stand a real chance of getting a job afterwards. Over the past six years over half of the Masterclass finalists have entered jobs in the industry. Past winners have included a postman.

“PwC has created one of the most realistic cyber defence simulations we have ever seen for a Masterclass. This truly mirrors the work that cyber security professionals do in real life and is designed to unearth the exact skills that the industry is looking for in new recruits,” explained Stephanie Daman, CEO of the Cyber Security Challenge UK.

“PwC and our consortium of sponsors have set up an incredible competition which will enable candidates to demonstrate that they are ready for jobs in the industry,” said Daman. “This is critical in a sector where there is a critical skills gap and thousands of workers are needed in the UK alone to fill jobs which will help to protect our national security.”

Today’s well-rounded cyber expert has more than just the technical prowess, so we’ve designed this year’s Masterclass to help develop the next generation of cyber talent,” said Richard Horne, Cyber Security Partner at PwC. “ We’ll be testing a combination of analytical, business and technical skills in a high pressure environment to mimic what candidates could expect to face in a future cyber career.”

Cyber Worries

The need for a competition like this is obvious with the dangers presented by cyber attackers. Last year  former defence secretary Des Browne warned that Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system could be useless if the government cannot provide proof that it is protected from Internet-based attacks.

Earlier this year the government pledged to invest £1.9 billion in boosting the UK’s cybersecurity defences and to develop cyberattack capabilities that would allow it to fight back if struck by a foreign adversary.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond said a strategy centred on the principles of defend, deter and develop would protect the country from outside threats, businesses from cybercrime and allow the UK to become a leader in the development of innovative technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

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