Cyber Security Challenge 2018 Masterclass contestants say “Just give it a go!”

Posted — 04.12.2018

It’s been another fantastic year of Face to Face challenges and on 26 November 2018, Masterclass contestant Charlie Hosier was crowned ultimate Cyber Security Challenge Champion.

Each year, our competition programme culminates at our Masterclass event, and this time we partnered with Barclays to design and host the 2018 grand finale. Security experts at Barclays developed the Cryptofactor, a complex challenge designed to test 42 of the most talented individuals who have taken part this year, and needless to say the atmosphere and anticipation was intense!

Six finalists from the Singaporean Cyber Security Challenge, delivered by the Singapore Government in partnership with BAE Systems and a UK programme partner, joined the 42 UK contestants.

Ahead of the Masterclass, we got in touch with this year’s finalists to find out what led them into cybersecurity, what they believe are the best ways to pursue a path in the industry, and to hear their thoughts on how the next generation can seize the opportunity to help close the cyber skills gap in the UK. And we received some truly inspiring responses.

Considering getting involved in our games and challenges?

This year’s Masterclass contestants answered with a resounding “just give it a go!” when we asked them for their advice to anyone considering taking part in the future. This unanimous response was definitely not as a result of conferring! Everyone explained that it’s really not important to have in depth cyber security knowledge to get started. You’ll learn so much along the way – if you keep trying. And you’ll be surrounded by like minded people who you can learn from.

Finalist Ben Stickland told us he initially got involved because it seemed like a great way to differentiate himself from other cyber security graduates – not only do you develop new skills, each stage of the challenge is also a chance to make lots of useful industry connections. Ben also runs the cyber security society at his university, where his connections through Cyber Security Challenge have come in very handy.

What is your biggest strength that you’ll bring to the Masterclass task?

Anyone might guess that this group of cyber security champs would be quick to list their expertise in the likes of coding, cryptography and cracking ciphers. Perhaps they didn’t want to brag or risk giving the other competitors any inside knowledge about their technical skillset, or perhaps they’re just a very mature bunch. Finalists Edward Trist, Christopher Williams, Gwion ap Rheinallt were just a few names who identified their biggest strength as their communication and teamwork skills. They’re right! The ability to communicate effectively and work collaboratively to solve the challenges is equally as important as the technical skills needed to hack or defend networks. Each qualifying round gives participants the chance to develop these skills, and this is the type of thing employers are looking for in their cyber security teams of today and tomorrow.

What part of the Masterclass are you most looking forward to?

For the majority of our contestants and finalists (as well as the Cyber Security Challenge UK team!), the part they most look forward to is meeting everyone else involved and spending a whole weekend together having fun. There’s little we love more than socialising with others who share a passion for cyber security.

One of our finalists answered, “All of it! The Face to Face blew me away so I’m not sure what to expect, I’ve been told by previous contestants that it’s a great experience, so I can’t wait. The awards dinner stands out for me! And networking is an important factor too, especially as I will be looking for a job in this sector soon.” If our Twitter timeline is anything to go by, everyone who took part and contributed towards making the event happen had a ball.

And what do you think is the biggest opportunity for the next generation when it comes to closing the cyber skills gap in the UK?

It’s over to some of our contestants to answer this one firsthand…

“The frequency of large scale, global attacks targeting connected devices should inspire the next generation to strive to prevent them.”

“Get involved in as many extra-curricular activities as possible, including events and competitions like this one. Security and IT should be taught alongside each other at all stages of education.

“I think the resources provided by Cyber Security Challenge UK and Cyber Discovery are great, because it can seem like a lot of cyber security learning resources are prohibitively expensive, especially for younger people who are looking to get into the industry. Expanding programmes like these would help to not only upskill people who are already interested, but also recognise people who already have some of the necessary skills, but aren’t even aware of the opportunities in the cyber security industry.”

“The world is increasingly becoming filled with connected devices performing important  functions, but they’re created without security in mind. This is the opportunity for young people with cyber skills to step up.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. A huge thanks to everyone who took the time to answer the questionnaire and share what cyber security means to them.

Congratulations to winning team My Doom, a massive well done to runner up Tom Brook and congratulations to Alexander Seymour who scooped third place. We’ll be staying tuned to see where your success takes you!