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Cyber comp at Cambridge

UK and US university students have been battling a rogue state developing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs); in a life-like cyber security competition, Cambridge2Cambridge (C2C).

The UK Government and industry backed competition is the idea of the University of Cambridge in the UK, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), in the US. It has 110 contestants from 24 universities in the US and the UK. The mixed teams of UK and US students can take a total of £20,000 in prize money.

Teams to mount an offensive cyber-attack to subdue a facility where a fictitious rogue state is developing and caching WMDs. The cyber-attack is necessary, as the weapons are hidden underground, with “bunker-bombs” proving ineffective and poor weather preventing allied ground troops from attacking.

The competition, at Trinity College, Cambridge, pictured, started on Monday, July 24 and will end on Wednesday, July 26. This second C2C competition is backed by the UK’s official National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the UK Cabinet Office, and industry partners Leidos, NCC Group, Context, Palo Alto Networks, KPMG, ForAll Secure, Immersive Labs, Wiley and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Organisers add that it is designed to tackle a cyber security skills gap.

Academics behind C2C also designed the competition to promote greater cyber security collaboration between the UK and USA, and give students the platform to explore creative ways to combat global cyber-attacks, as well as honing and acquiring critical skills. It also gives cyber enthusiasts the chance to test their skills in a simulation, meet like-minded individuals, and learn more about careers in the sector.

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Prof Frank Stajano, Head of the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research at the University of Cambridge and co-founder of Cambridge2Cambridge, says: “In the second annual Cambridge2Cambridge challenge we have looked to expand on the success of the inaugural C2C, by welcoming students from top universities from across the UK and the USA. It’s truly remarkable to witness the breadth of talent in Universities throughout these two countries.”

“C2C gives these bright young people the opportunity to implement the skills and theory they have been taught at university in a realistic environment, while learning new ones in the process. We have over a hundred smart kids here in Cambridge today but I hope their achievements inspire hundreds of thousands of secondary school students to take up this challenging and intellectually stimulating path when they go to university. We are growing a new generation of skilled cyber security experts who will protect the digital society of tomorrow.”

Dr Howard Shrobe, Principal Research Scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and co-founder of Cambridge2Cambridge, says: “The relevance of cyber security has never been greater. Recent attacks on corporations and governments alike have focused our attention towards a need for a strong pool of talent to bolster our defences. Cambridge2Cambridge was born out of a need to spur innovative ideas, bringing together the brainpower from MIT and the University of Cambridge, so it only seems natural to involve more leading universities in the second year of C2C, and continue to inspire the world’s leading minds to tackle an ever-growing issue. Only by giving these talented students the tools needed to enter the industry, will we be able to tackle the growing threat from cyber criminals and terrorists.”

And Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director of Cyber Skills and Growth said: “Cyber security is one of the most important professions for any digitally enabled country and I am proud that the UK is a world leader in this field. We need the brightest and the best talent to stay ahead of rapidly evolving global cyber threats and I am hugely impressed by the skills and enthusiasm of the young people taking part in this competition. I am particularly pleased to see more women taking part this year. The participants I’ve seen here have a bright future in the cyber security field and will be at the forefront of keeping our nation safe and secure.”


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