Today, bright sparks from across the UK and Overseas Territories compete in the National Final of CyberCenturion, a cyber defence and STEM skills competition, led by global security company Northrop Grumman in partnership with government-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK and supported by the US Air Force Association. The ten finalist teams will compete in a battle against the clock, working as cyber security consultants defending against fictional live attacks, all with the hope of being crowned champions and winning a trip to the United States for their team.
The competitors will adopt the persona of the security team of a fictional gaming association that have been tasked with helping to secure the gaming industry after a spate of cyber security attacks. Helping five different fictional companies, they will use their evolving cyber security skills to identify vulnerabilities in the networks, make critical patches and defend the system against attacks.
The gaming theme was selected for the storyline as evermore games and hobbies are becoming digitalised and to help educate young people to know about the potential dangers linked to online gaming. From cybercriminals using gaming forums to exploit young people, to understanding what happens to their data when a company is hacked or knowing how to stay on the right side of the law; simple gaming cheats can fall on the wrong side of the Computer Misuse Act for example.
Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Minister for Implementation, Cabinet Office said: “As our National Cyber Security Strategy highlights, it is critically important that we develop the skills and capabilities we need to address the challenges we face. We can only succeed if we work in partnership with organisations like Northrop Grumman and the Cyber Security Challenge to inspire the next generation of cyber security professionals and entrepreneurs. It is fantastic to see so many young people take advantage of the exciting opportunities this competition brings – congratulations to them all.”
The ten finalist teams are the top performers from a series of intense qualifying rounds which took place over the last six months between with competitors from across the UK and Overseas Territories. They are competing to win an all-expenses paid trip to the US, courtesy of Northrop Grumman. There they will meet senior figures within the organisation, visit national landmarks and learn more about coding and cyber at venues such as the National Cryptologic Museum.
“Creating greater awareness of STEM and building a more diverse workforce are global imperatives, and CyberCenturion is spearheading these efforts, helping to address the urgent need to foster the cyber talent of the future,” said Andrew Tyler, chief executive, Northrop Grumman Europe. “CyberCenturion continues to grow and provide opportunities to engage young people who are curious about technology and cyber security, and eager to put their existing skills to the test. We look forward to an exciting national finals competition.”
A key element of CyberCenturion’s success is that competitors do not need any prior experience in cyber defence; participants are provided with the training and preparation materials required. This makes the programme accessible and encourages broad participation. Diversity is critical in the profession; as the cyber threat becomes more complex, workforce diversity is important in bringing different perspectives, academic backgrounds, experience and problem-solving approaches to addressing the challenges. That’s why this year’s competition also sees the introduction of different ‘tracks’, encouraging more girls to take part and a track specifically for cadet groups as the Centurion programme is well designed to sit both in or outside of academic activities.
Colin Lobley, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “Competitions like CyberCenturion are critical in helping to inspire the next generation of cyber security talent and plugging the skills gap that we see in the industry today. We provide a safe and secure environment for young people to test their cyber skills, helping them to grow and learn along the way. This storyline is also extremely relevant to the age group and should help to demonstrate how cyber security is critical to them, not just the corporate world. I would encourage any young person to have a go at the competition in future, they may be surprised at what they can achieve!”
CyberCenturion aims to engage thousands of talented young individuals curious about cyber security and eager to put any existing cyber skills to the test. As a national, team-based cyber security contest, CyberCenturion is 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 and Girl Guides, to school clubs and community groups. All of which will help to tackle the ever-expanding technology skills gap and inspire the next generation of digital defenders who will help keep our nation safe.