NCA tests market for cyber security talent

A groundbreaking collaboration between the National Crime Agency (NCA), BT and GCHQ will test the cream of the UK’s amateur cyber security talent to find those capable of keeping the nation safe online.

Oct 23, 2013
By Paul Jacques
Picture: Police Scotland

A groundbreaking collaboration between the National Crime Agency (NCA), BT and GCHQ will test the cream of the UK’s amateur cyber security talent to find those capable of keeping the nation safe online.

Experts from each organisation will work together over the coming months to design the final of this year’s competition, a nationwide programme designed to bring more talented people into the cyber security profession and address a critical skills shortage that affects government bodies, businesses and citizens alike.

Lee Miles, deputy head of the National Cyber Crime Unit within the NCA, said: “The NCA is delighted to be involved in the Cyber Security Challenge, which is a unique and exciting opportunity to bring together some of the UK’s most talented amateurs in cyber security. These sorts of initiatives are vital for attracting talented people to consider careers in security and in law enforcement.”

A face-to-face cyber battle will take place at next year’s Masterclass final at a secret location in London when the UK champion will be crowned. The final, to be held in March, will test 42 ‘cyber defenders’, identified during ten months of virtual and face-to-face battles, with a final top-secret scenario and role playing-based competition, comprising technical challenges and more business-focused risk analysis and policy tasks. Finalists will be asked to show off their skills in a simulated work environment by solving the sort of problems cyber security professionals encounter every day. They will be required to demonstrate technical, interpersonal and decision-making skills.

Jonathan Hoyle, GCHQ’s Director General for Government and Industry Cyber Security, said: “The beauty of the Cyber Security Challenge UK is that the competitors include a real mix of self-taught talent who bring an unconventional and innovative approach to the challenges. That innovation is really important to the UK in tackling cyber threats today and in the future.”

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office with responsibility for the UK Cyber Security Strategy, added: “We are very pleased to support the Cyber Security Challenge through our National Cyber Security Programme – it provides an innovative approach to identifying talent for the cyber security sector, ensuring we have a new cadre of cyber security professionals ready to make the UK one of the safest places to do business online.”

The Cyber Security Challenge UK began in 2010 as three competitions run by a small group of supporters from industry, government and academia to address the growing skills gap in the UK cyber security profession. Now in its fourth year, the challenge has grown its range of competitions, incorporated a schools-specific challenge, and is now backed by more than 75 sponsors from across government, industry and academia.

Dr Bob Nowill, BT’s cyber director, said: “As an organisation, we see these types of initiatives as key to encouraging people to develop their cyber skills and build a career in this really interesting area of security.”

In its first major drive to attract new officers – just two weeks after going live – the NCA this week launched the first phase of a campaign to recruit up to 400 trainee cyber and intelligence officers over the coming year.

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