Britain’s best cyber prodigies compete in ultra-realistic cyber-attack simulation to bolster country’s frontline cyber defences

London - 3 November 2016

  • 42 of the UK's most talented amateur cyber security enthusiasts to lead the defence against a simulated cyber-attack on fictional energy company
  • Hyper-real three-day Cyber Security Challenge UK competition created by PwC and supported by GCHQ, NCA and the Bank of England
  • 50% of previous Masterclass competitors have secured jobs in the industry

Today, 42 of the most promising amateur cyber sleuths will compete in a hyper-real cyber defence simulation which will see them protect a global energy company from live cyber-attacks and insider threats. The competition, which is a culmination of a year of qualifying rounds, is known as the Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass. The event will take place in an industrial-style simulated Security Operating Centre (SOC) in the heart of Shoreditch, and has been developed this year by global professional services firm PwC with support from experts at GCHQ, NCA and the Bank of England.

The competition will see candidates take on the role of PwC cyber security consultants brought in to investigate suspicious activity on the IT network of the fictional third largest energy supplier in the world, dubbed Bolt Power. As the action unfolds, they will have to defend the company from cyber-attacks launched by hacktivist groups in real time, make quick decisions based on live intelligence updates from both clients and government agencies, and attempt to prevent information leaks to the outside world.

Each team will face a boardroom grilling from the client in a true test of their ability to handle pressure and communicate technical information effectively, while fake press will attempt to deduce details from the candidates as they try to find out more about the attack. They will be judged on their capacity to adhere to the strict legal and ethical checks that all cyber security professionals must abide by as well as their technical competence.

The Masterclass is the grand finale of a year’s worth of online and face-to-face qualifying rounds, which has seen thousands of cyber amateurs compete against each other in qualifying competitions created by the Challenge’s sponsor community. The final 42 represent the finest amateur talent the country has to offer and will be assessed by government and industry experts on the same aptitudes sought by businesses today. These include technical proficiencies such as forensic analysis, incident response and live network monitoring, as well as soft skills including communication, leadership and management.

The cyber security industry is facing a critical skills shortage, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million cyber security workers by 2020, according to a study by (ISC)². At a time when cyber-attacks are increasing in frequency and severity, the Challenge works with its sponsors like PwC to bring more talented individuals, for whom there are no traditional pathways into the cyber security sector, to help defend the country’s economic prosperity. Over half of Masterclass finalists over the past six years have entered jobs in the industry. The best teams in this year’s Masterclass competition will win thousands of pounds of career-enabling prizes and the ultimate winner will be crowned the UK’s best cyber security talent of 2016.

Stephanie Daman, CEO of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “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. 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. 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.”

Richard Horne, Cyber Security Partner at PwC, said: “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. 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.”  

Chris Ensor, Cyber Skills & Growth, National Cyber Security Centre said: “The Cyber Security Challenge continues to raise awareness of cyber security as a great career choice, as well as inspiring the next generation of talent from across the UK. GCHQ has enthusiastically supported the Challenge for the past 6 years and through its recently launched CyberFirst campaign, also aims to inspire, support and nurture young talent into a career in cyber security.”

Richard Jones, Head of Prevent at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “We are pleased to be continuing our support of Cyber Security Challenge as it once again provides an exciting showcase to some of the UK’s biggest technical talents. A number of previous contestants have carried out work with the NCA, and there are ever growing opportunities for those with computer skills to work on the front line of the UK’s fight against global cyber-crime, as well as in other fields of cyber security.”

Buck Rogers, Chief Information Security Officer at the Bank of England said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Cyber Security Challenge Masterclass again as it’s a great opportunity for us to meet gifted individuals with an interest in cyber security.

Effective cyber security is as much about people as it is about systems and so the Bank is pleased to be a part of an initiative that fosters talent and encourages recruitment into this important sector.”

Cyber Security Challenge UK

With the backing of founding sponsors like the SANS Institute, the Challenge started out in 2010 to create a series of virtual and face-to-face competitions that would identify talented people for the cyber security industry. Now in its 6th year, the Challenge is backed by over 50 of the UK’s most prestigious public, private and academic organisations, and hosts a wide programme of activities designed to spread the word about why cyber security is such a fulfilling and varied career and help talented people get their first cyber security jobs. Working from school level right through to helping career changers making the transition across, the Challenge is making a notable difference to the career prospects of those with the talents and aptitude to become cyber security professionals.

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