Yesterday, 60 of the UK’s brightest 12-18 year olds will compete in the national finals of CyberCenturion, a country-wide cyber security competition jointly sponsored by Cyber Security Challenge UK and Northrop Grumman. The 10 teams will battle it out in a high pressure, face-to-face cyber defence scenario in a race against the clock to protect a fictitious Internet of Things start-up from a cyber attack.
The finalists, who competed against hundreds of players from across the UK and Overseas Territories over three gruelling qualifying rounds, will be tasked to defend a newly created Internet of Things (IoT) business. Dubbed ‘CyberPatio’, the fictitious company creates connected garden furniture that links to the wider IoT network and in the game it is believed the systems may be vulnerable to cyber attacks. The scenario will task contestants to analyse the company’s network and identify and remediate security flaws across different operating systems – much like those found in businesses across the country today. This is highly relevant to the growing IoT market, which looks set to grow from 2 billion connected objects in 2006, to 200 billion by 20201, vastly increasing the potential for costly data breaches.
Taking place at The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park, contestants will work in the shadow of the Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, which helped decipher the Lorenz-encrypted messages in WWII, and the WITCH, the world’s oldest original still working digital computer.
Those competing today include gaming enthusiasts from Gibraltar who programme games and explore java in their spare time; a team whose captain has previously won the National Science and Engineering competition with a computational design; a team of 15 year olds that run a coding and robotics club for their school and a team from Essex and Suffolk that are friends from different schools, united by their love of computers and coding.
CyberCenturion mirrors the US CyberPatriot competition, part of a major American youth cyber STEM education programme presented by the Northrop Grumman Foundation and created by the US Air Force Association. The aim of the competition is to engage thousands of talented young individuals who have the skills to defend the UK online but no real outlet for showcasing what they can do. As a national team-based cyber security contest specifically for 12-18s, CyberCenturion is also designed to address the nationwide STEM skills gap by opening up cyber security education to youth groups from every sphere of life, from cadet corps, Scout groups, Girl Guides, charities, school clubs and community groups.
Andrew Tyler, Chief Executive Europe, Northrop Grumman, said: “There is a huge pool of untapped talent and enthusiasm for STEM subjects among young people and we believe we can use our world-leading expertise in cyber to help dramatically boost the UK’s STEM skills base. We are addressing this issue around the world and in addition to CyberCenturion in Europe and CyberPatriot in the US we also now have CyberArabia in the Middle East, each aimed at developing talent and helping inspire and enable young people, to pursue a career in cyber security. It is critically important for the future of our global infrastructure that young people are engaged and that that talent pipeline is filled.”
Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “The CyberCenturion competition is becoming one of the most successful coding and cyber events for this age group in the UK. With Northrop Grumman’s help, we have been able to reach more young people from a variety of backgrounds and encourage them to compete in a cyber security competition, whether or not they have the opportunity to study cyber at school. With an expected deficit of 1.5 million unfulfilled jobs in cyber globally by 20202, we need to get children interested in the field at an early age and STEM education programmes allow us to do just that. These young people could be the future defenders of our country.”
Tim Reynolds, Deputy Chairman of The National Museum of Computing, said: “We are extremely happy to host the CyberCenturion final again this year. Through the Museum’s Learning Programme, we aim to inspire young people by showcasing our rich heritage of technology, engineering and computing. By holding the competition at the Museum, young people can see how skills such as codebreaking, mathematics and computing have developed and now provide fulfilling and rewarding careers in modern day cyber security.”
The winners of the competition today will receive a selection of prizes; from resources, books and technology for their school, to lunch with the senior members of Northrop Grumman Corporation and Cyber Security Challenge UK, where they can learn more about careers in cyber security.
Registration for the next CyberCenturion competition is now open, click here to register.
1 IDC, Intel, United Nations: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/internet-of-things/infographics/guide-to-iot.html
2 (ISC)2: https://www.isc2cares.org/IndustryResearch/GISWS/