Hundreds of budding cyber security professionals will compete over the next few days to prove their credentials as the new programme of Cyber Security Challenge competitions gets into full swing.
The virtual stage of the QinetiQ Network Defence Competition, which kicks off today, and the SANS Packet Capture Analysis competition, which goes live early next week, will test both the ability of cyber enthusiasts to identify vulnerabilities in IT networks and protect systems exposed to simulated cyber-attacks.
Both will be run online and hope to identify the most talented individuals from hundreds that registered to play, following their launch last month.
For the second year running, the Network Defence Competition has been developed by global technology company QinetiQ. It requires candidates to critique a technology network, or design a completely new one from scratch against a brief that is typical of those given to security professionals.
Unlike last year’s competition, this time entry was aimed at individuals rather than teams. This has opened up the competition to a lot more candidates and all 500 places have been filled. The competition has also evolved to reflect recent developments in the cyber security arena, to keep it relevant, current and aligned to the threats faced by UK industries today.
“Cyber security requires a rounded skill set with team players who can utilise everything they have at their disposal to deliver innovative solutions to difficult situations.” explains Charles Hodgson, Director of the Network Defence competition at QinetiQ. “We are not just looking for technically competent people. The skills we are testing with these competitions are in demand across the whole sector right now, especially in areas like penetration testing, digital investigations, information assurance consultancy, network administration and development of cyber strategy.”
The SANS Packet Capture Analysis is a brand new competition that tests candidates’ digital forensics skills. It asks them to investigate technology networks, spot things that shouldn’t be there, and highlight the activities of network users that are putting the whole system at risk. To complete the test, competitors will be presented with a file containing data captured from a theoretical computer network and a piece of analysis software called Wireshark. They will be scored on their ability to answer questions on the data they are presented with, and the time they take to complete the competition.
“There is major demand in the industry for the advanced intrusion analysis and digital forensic skills tested by this competition”, says Terry Neal, EMEA Director at SANS Institute.
“Whilst this initial stage is aimed at the intermediate players you find in college and universities, we believe these games can inspire a group of already proficient amateur talent to focus their further education and career development down this particular path.”
“These competitions typify our new approach to the Cyber Security Challenge programme”, says Jay Abbott, head of the Challenge’s competitions group. “We have selected the best aspects from the previous programme and improved them, whilst widening the scope of the skills we can assess with brand new ideas such SANS’ Packet Capture Analysis competition”.
The winners from both these competitions will take their place in the next round of the Challenge programme. This brings successful candidates together for a series of in-person face-offs at the start of next year.
Successful candidates in the Network Defence Competition will be invited to one of QinetiQ’s secure facilities to work in teams to defend networks against a series of realistic cyber attacks thrown at them by QinetiQ’s experts. For the SANS winners, the Sophos Malware Hunt awaits, where they will need to assess and nullify a range of real malicious codes from the vaults at SophosLabs in a bid to prevent data theft and system failure.