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Cyber Challenge for 2017

The Cyber Security Challenge UK set out its plans for 2017 at BT offices in central London recently to an audience from the telecoms firm, past contestants in the annual Challenge, and Challenge advisory board members from private industry and Government.

The wide-ranging work needed to bring more young people in the cyber field was borne out by one of the night’s speakers; Rob Partridge, the 27-year BT man now head of its security academy. He’s spoken to classes of children as young as six (writing secret messages with lemon juice). Views of cyber need challenging all round, it seems; Rob recalled interviewing a graduate who said he wouldn’t get out of bed for less than 90 (that is, thousand pounds a year). Yes, there’s potential to earn that, Rob told the audience; not from day one. That there’s not enough people willing and able to take a cyber career isn’t just because too few people are studying computer science; not enough are taking STEM (science, maths) subjects. If they are, they might be drawn more into gaming. Recruiters may have to think again too; Rob suggested some were filtering out good technical candidates who weren’t good in a job interview. He used the word ‘neurodiversity’; in other words, we’ve heard of gender and racial diversity; now think of the autistic, who may be poor at talking and making eye contact, but skilful at penetration testing and forensics.

Busy year

Nigel Harrison, director of the Challenge, said 2017 would be a ‘busy year’. He thanked sponsors such as Raytheon and Barclays. Planned are online game tests; ’capture the flag’ events; mentoring in universities; and more on data protection as new data protection rules come into force in the UK as throughout the European Union by May 2018. Also speaking were Les Anderson, BT’s chief information security officer (CISO); the man he reports to, Mark Hughes, BT’s head of security; and a man Les used to report to, former BT man Bob Nowill, who now chairs the Challenge.

About the Challenge

The Cyber Security Challenge seeks to raise awareness and aid entry by students into cyber careers. Its website offers virtual competitions. Visit

Diversity date

The IAAC (Information Assurance Advisory Council) with Cyber Security Challenge UK, the Defence Academy of the UK and others is hosting an event: Neuro-Diversity: Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) into Cyber. It’s at Shrivenham in Wiltshire on March 2. It’s to guide employers to become more confident in the recruiting autistic. Visit

More in the March 2017 print issue of Professional Security magazine. The November final of the 2015 Challenge that ended with a scenario set in and around Church House in central London, pictured, featured in the January 2016 issue of the magazine.


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