Cyber Security Challenge ‘Keeps The Country Safe’

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By finding new talent, the Cyber Security Challenge helps the IT industry protect the nation from threats, says new CEO Duncan Hine

The UK Cyber Security Challenge  helps keep the country safe by finding untapped talent for the British cyber security industry, the new chief executive has told TechWeekEurope.

In the Challenge, now in its second year, contestants complete a series of online puzzles, and the winners being invited to compete in face-to-face challenges to secure a place in the Masterclass final.

The aim is to raise the profile of the IT security industry. Winners, such as last year’s top contestant Dan Summers, a postman from Wakefield. may have no security experience, and may not have thought of IT security as a career. The Challenge reveals these people’s skills – and the security  industry, which faces a growing skills shortage, can put them to good use.

Security Issues Outpace The Industry

“One of things that has become clear to me is that the problem is getting much bigger much more quickly than we’re training the right numbers of people to deal with it,” the new CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK, Duncan Hine, told TechWeekEurope.

Hine, who has spent fifteen years in the public and private sector, is adamant that there are plenty of people out there with the necessary skills, who know a lot, but aren’t being trained or working in the industry.  Cyber Security Challenge is about doing the contestants some good, cyber security companies some good and having some fun in the process, he told us.

“Can we find them and mobilise them and help them find careers in this new profession?” he asked. Hine joined the organisation “to have some fun” and to build up the Cyber Security Challenge, but told us that it’s a “serious thing”.

According to Hine, a lot of specialist knowledge isn’t necessary to be successful in the challenge and that people who are good at something  as mundane as doing the crossword will find that these skills are transferable to tasks such as decoding and deciphering.

Measuring your skills against others’

Often contestants selected for the final rounds don’t realise their talent, said Hine, adding: “The fact they were selected shows how good they are.”

“Part of the benefit is to come and benchmark with other people and to realise that are actually quite good,” said Hine, who argued that contestants receive confidence, the chance to network and to develop a sense of community during the face-to-face rounds.

The certificates awarded for success in the challenges were an achievement in themselves, he said. They are not a formal qualification, but contestants do value them, and show them to either current or potential employers.

Prizes such as access to computer resources, text books, internships and paid MSc courses can mean a lot to participants, especially those who would be unable to afford them otherwise, he said.

No radical changes

There are 50 organisations which are either sponsors or affiliates of the programme, with some providing funding and others prizes but, according to Hine, they see it as a chance to raise the profile of cyber security and are attracted to do something good for what is a “new industry”.

Hine may be new in the role, but he has no plans to change things dramatically and is eager to build on what has been achieved in the  two challenges that have been held. He’s also keen to reach out to children still in schools, in particular those approaching their GCSE and A-Level examinations, who may be unsure which exams to take to enter the industry.

He did concede that he may change one or two of the individual challenges, especially if they get a new sponsor which wants to introduce something new.

However most importantly for Hine, it is important that the Cyber Security Challenge continues to raise the profile of an industry that “keeps the country safe”.

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