How can the Cyber Security Challenge be improved?

By Sooraj Shah
08 Jan 2014 View Comments
Chrysalis to butterfly

The Cyber Security Challenge (CSC) is a series of national events designed to encourage talented professionals to join the UK IT security industry in the middle of a supposed 'cyber skills crisis'. 

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Computing had questioned whether the competition was a worthy programme or just a waste of time, particularly after its winner in March 2013, 28-year-old Stephen Miller, said he had no plans to switch from his current role at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to a cyber-security position.

BT Security is a sponsor of the programme, and its programme manager Rob Partridge told Computing that it isn't a failure if the winner of the challenge does not take up a role in cyber security.

"If the individual decides it's not for them, then I don't think it is a failure because they wouldn't get gratification for their career," he said.

A CSC spokesperson had said in March last year that 40 people had secured IT security jobs following two full years of the challenge, with 7,000 people having registered for the competition in total. But the competition's CEO, Stephanie Daman, defended the role of the challenge, claiming that its main focus wasn't on recruitment.

Chris Doman, a 27-year-old former software developer from Essex, triumphed over 1,200 cyber teams from 53 countries on his own to finish second in a US military cyber security competition, designed and hosted by the US Department of Defense Cyber Crime Centre (DC3) and run by CSC UK.

After securing a role as senior associate in PwC's cyber threat detection response team, Doman claimed that the challenge was a success.

And two competitors who have made it to the ‘MasterClass' final developed by BT, GCHQ and the National Crime Agency (NCA), told Computing that the competition was making people more excited about the cyber security industry.

Robert Laverick, a 33-year-old software developer from Redcar, who became interested in security after coming across servers that had been hacked into at his employer, said: "The challenge seems to be working in the right way, almost all the people I spoke to said they were looking for a job in the [IT security] industry, and I'm not looking for a job now but if I do look elsewhere it will be the industry I look at."

Andrew Gill, a 20-year-old entrepreneur who is studying for an undergraduate degree in digital forensics, said that at the face-to-face competition rounds he has seen many people from different professions. He added that an English teacher he met at the competition is now working as a penetration tester.

But both finalists said that there is not enough awareness of the Cyber Security Challenge, and that many of their peers had never heard of the competition. Indeed, they claimed that they had only heard of the challenge by chance.

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