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Cyber competition

Northrop Grumman with Cyber Security Challenge UK are holding the National Finals Competition of CyberCenturion, UK’s first national cyber security competition for 12 to 18-year-olds. The venue will be the historic setting of The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park, where contestants will get to see the rebuilt, working Colossus machine, the world’s first electronic computer which helped decipher the Lorenz-encrypted (Tunny) messages between Hitler and his military during World War II.

Eight teams of UK’s most talented STEM prodigies from across the UK and as far afield as Gibraltar compete in timed contests. Their task will be to protect sensitive customer data and intellectual property for a fictitious videogames company under attack by rival businesses trying to steal industry information.

CyberCenturion aims to engage thousands of talented youths who have the skills to defend the UK online but no real outlet for showcasing what they can do. As a national team-based cyber security contest specifically for 12-18s, CyberCenturion is also 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.

CyberCenturion mirrors the US CyberPatriot competition, part of a major American youth cyber STEM education programme presented by the Northrop Grumman Foundation and created by the US Air Force Association. CyberPatriot has already engaged more than 250,000 students, educating them on the opportunities in cyber security across the US. Eighty percent of those who have taken part in CyberPatriot now plan to pursue a higher education course in a STEM subject.

This UK National Finals Competition marks the culmination of nine months of tests to find the finest STEM talent among this age group across the UK and British Overseas Territories. Those competing to become UK’s best young amateur cyber defenders include an 18-year-old Cambridge-level maths genius from the Malverns and a team of 12- and 13-year-olds from Chester who built a robot in less than six weeks.

Contestants will battle it out at The National Museum of Computing under the eye of cyber figures from CyberPatriot, Northrop Grumman, Fujitsu, and from TNMOC itself. IT industry luminaries observing the contest include Margaret Sale, widow of Tony Sale, the man who rebuilt Colossus; Andrew Tyler, European Chief Executive of Northrop Grumman; and Bernie Skoch, National Commissioner for the US Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot programme.

Andrew Tyler, Chief Executive Europe of Northrop Grumman, said: “We aim to help address UK’s STEM skills gap by replicating the successful US model of national youth cyber education programmes across the UK. Last year, over 2,000 teams of young people took part in our US ‘CyberPatriot’ programme, and we believe that ‘CyberCenturion’ can replicate that level of success in the UK. There is a huge pool of untapped talent and enthusiasm for STEM subjects among young people and we believe we can use our world-leading expertise in cyber to help dramatically boost UK’s STEM skills base.” And Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “Partnering with Northrop Grumman has provided the opportunity to draw on the company’s invaluable expertise and experience in delivering cyber skills education across America. People begin thinking about their future careers at an increasingly young age and it is vital that we find ways to get children interested in STEM early on. CyberCenturion opens the door to teams from a variety of sources, including computer clubs and Scout groups, giving us an opportunity to spread the talent net wider than ever before.”

How CyberCenturion works

CyberCenturion is played by teams of between four and six. Each team must include a responsible adult as the liaison between the organisers and the participants, and every participant must be 18 years or under when the game is played.

In the first online qualifying round, students began the competition as a new IT employee at a fictional games company called All-time Favourites Arcade (AFA), where they were taught entry-level system admin, such as how operating systems work. In the second qualifying round, successful teams were promoted in the graphic design department of the same company where they had to secure the department’s digital resources to thwart hackers attempting to steal their intellectual property for financial gain. In today’s National Finals Competition, eight teams will take on the roles of cyber-experts, looking after a company’s computer network cyber-defences and being tasked with protecting personally-identifiable customer data, (including credit-card data) and guarding company intellectual property against theft by malicious hackers. Visit – https://cybersecuritychallenge.org.uk/.


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