Top young British cyber talent crowned champion of the ‘Cryptofactor’

Posted — 04.12.2018
  • 42 cybersecurity enthusiasts from across the UK took part in the three-day Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass to showcase their talent
  • Charlie Hosier, 19, from York and currently a student at Edinburgh Napier University, was awarded the top prize and becomes the 2018 Cyber Security Challenge Champion
  • Developed by Barclays and backed by HM Government, this year’s Cryptofactor challenge saw teams employ complex defence methods to expose an attack on fictional cryptocurrency exchange firm

27th November 2018, London, UK – On Monday night, the 2018 Cyber Security Challenge UK Champion 2018 was announced. Having successfully competed in previous qualifying rounds and demonstrating a number of key skills across three days of challenges, Charlie Hosier, 19, from York was named the overall 2018 champion.

The winning team at the end of the three-day challenge was My Doom, comprised of the following:

  • Alexander Seymour, 25, Bournemouth
  • Tomasz Tomczyk, 23, Bradford
  • Callum Fraser, 18, London
  • Harry Barnes, 22, Great Missenden
  • Tom Brook, 34, Chilworth
  • Tom Whiting, 25, Bournemouth

“It has been an amazing experience to take part in the Cyber Security Challenge UK Masterclass. The challenges and tasks really pushed us, but throughout we have had fun and I’ve met some great people,” said Charlie Hosier, 2018 Cyber Security Challenge UK Champion 2018. “I still can’t believe I won! It’s an amazing feeling and has given me a great opportunity to get my dream job in cyber security.”

Held at Barclays’ HQ in Canary Wharf, London, this year’s final saw 42 contestants from across the UK battle it out over the course of the three days as their cyber security skills were put to the test. With a scenario developed by Barclays and Cyber Security Challenge UK, contestants were tasked with managing a cyber security attack in the role of a security team that works with a number of fintech and cryptocurrency clients.

In recent years we have seen successful attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges and services providers such as Israeli’s Bancor and Coincheck, each of which has led to a weakening of trust in cryptocurrencies and sent shockwaves through the industry. In the heavily regulated financial sector, it is especially important that businesses are adequately protected, not just to prevent the penalties and fines that can follow but to ensure customer trust too.

Barclays’ team of security experts leveraged their professional experience to develop a series of cryptocurrency-themed challenges set in the context of a detailed storyline for this year’s challenge finale, designed to test contestants’ skillsets in a simulated industry environment. Finalists battled it out to protect a fictional company, Research4U and presented their findings afterwards at a mock press conference to further mirror the real world business demands and applications of cyber security.

Working as a team of researchers, the contestants investigated part of Research4U’s secure storage for fintech start-up firms. The challenge began upon the discovery that cryptomining malware had been installed and data had been stolen from the organisation’s sales portal, which then saw cybercriminals demand a ransom to decrypt the data. Following this news, the contestants worked in teams to investigate, mitigate and control the cyber-attack and worked on an effective and secure network design for future protection. Following the investigation, the teams hosted a mock press conference to present their findings to the media and key stakeholders.

Paul Gillen, Head of Cyber Security Operations Centre, Barclays said “Until you have lived through a real-life cyber threat, or worse, an attack, it can be difficult to know what to expect and exactly how that might look.  We have worked with Cyber Security Challenge UK, using cutting edge technology, to create what we believe to be the closest thing to a real-life situation.  Over the course of the weekend, it has been great to witness the contestants fully immerse themselves in the scenario we put to them.  We’ve seen some really excellent problem solving and quick thinking, with both skills being key to a successful role in cyber security. I’d like to personally wish all of the contestants the best of luck in their future careers.”

Prior to the three-day Masterclass, contestants had already completed an exciting and rigorous process to qualify for the grand final competition. This included successfully competing in and winning previous face-to-face competitions that have been held throughout the year. Past winners of the Masterclass final used it as a great starting point for a successful career in cyber security.

Colin Lobley, CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK added: “This latest Masterclass really highlights the multifaceted role that cyber security professionals now need to take on. Having great coding and computer literacy skills is still very useful, however other skills such as psychology and communication are equally important. Knowing how to communicate the actions, steps and procedures that a business or organisation has taken to mitigate an attack are now business critical. We are really pleased that Barclays sees this too and is helping develop these skills in the UK.”

Joining the 42 UK contestants were six finalists of the Cyber Security Challenge Singapore, a programme organised by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. The finalists had participated in the online Cyphinx online game developed by Cyber Security Challenge UK before emerging tops at a Face-to-Face Challenge which was supported by BAE Systems.