Two of the Cyber Security Challenge UK’s award winning candidates have accepted job offers within the cyber security industry. Dan Summers, the postman named the Challenge’s first overall champion, has moved into the information security team of the Royal Mail Group. The Sans and Sophos Treasure Hunt champion, Simon Walker, has taken a fulltime position at PwC after completing the company internship that was part of his prize.
Both announcements were made following last week’s Challenge sponsors event, where cyber chiefs from across UK industry warned that attracting new talent to the profession was the biggest obstacle to combating the growing threat from online attacks.
Dan Summers, the Challenge’s first overall champion position, who will work as part of the team responsible for vulnerability management at the Royal Mail, said:
"Royal Mail Group recognised my potential as a result of my participation in the Challenge; our CISO and Director of Enterprise Architecture, Security & Governance, Vincent Hughes, has created a very exciting development programme to ensure I'm on track to fulfil that potential. This is the perfect start to my information security career and I'm ready to take on this new engagement.
“Winning the Cyber Security Challenge has opened doors for me and awarded prizes that are ideal for my new role. I'm extremely grateful, as I'm sure many future Challenge participants will be over the coming years."
Upon securing the PwC internship earlier this year Simon Walker left his job as an IT consultant, and has now become a permanent addition to PwC’s threat and vulnerability management team, which is doubling in size this year. Simon Walker, Senior Associate, PwC, said:
“I’ve always been passionate about cyber security and have wanted to pursue this as a career for a long time but the opportunity never arose. This competition has opened the door for me to do this for a living rather than just a hobby and put my skills and expertise to use in defending UK Plc against the bad guys.”
Attracting new talent
The job announcements come days after leading security experts speaking at the Cyber Security Challenge UK Cipher Awards warned that without attracting new talent into the cyber security profession, UK businesses would struggle in the face of the rising threat of cyber attack.
The evening, hosted by the Challenge’s Platinum Plus sponsor PwC, recognised the achievements of participants who solved a series of online puzzles set during the inaugural year of the national competition. Three cipher champions were awarded a series of career-enabling and educational prizes, and heard speeches from security experts at BT, the London Clearing House, PwC and the Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP). BT was also named as one of three new sponsors of the Challenge alongside IRM and ProCheckUp
Richard Phelps, HR management partner, PwC, said:
“Organisations are facing a massive challenge in attracting, recruiting and retaining talent. Over the last four to five years, the issue of talent management has been top of the list for CEOs. Many organisations don’t have great systems in place for identifying these vital skills.
“What’s increasingly clear within the cyber profession is that our normal recruitment processes aren’t able to deliver the people with the qualities and in the number we desperately need. With the speed of technology change and the increasing financial incentives in cybercrime, it’s essential that companies accept the limitations in their existing recruitment processes and embrace new initiatives like the Cyber Security Challenge.”
Mark Hughes, managing director at BT Security, said:
“The telecommunication industry operates within a boundaryless, jurisdictionless system where the proliferation of mobile communication devices and the increasing interconnectivity of our population poses an ever increasing threat to our networks.“
“At BT we have a vested interest in protecting the consumer and are as aware as anyone of the need to develop the next generation to help us defend against increasing cyber attacks. This is why we are involved in the Cyber Security Challenge. We cannot think of a better initiative for bringing grassroot talent into the industry.”
The three ciphers winners recognised during the evening were selected from over a thousand competitors based on their speed in solving a series of complex problems using real life industry tools such as cryptography.
On the night, Senad Zukic was announced as the overall cipher competition winner, Ed Godfrey, the under 18s winner and Neil Millstone was recognised for completing the launch cipher in the fastest time. As a result of their impressive performances, the cipher champions were awarded a mixture of career enabling, educational and fun pries including Ipads, tickets to IISP lectures and the national computing museum at Bletchley Park, and membership to the UK’s first motor racing team for security specialists, operated by Dtex systems.
Jay Abbott, Head of Threat and Vulnerability Management at PwC, whose team developed the ciphers, admitted the puzzles’ popularity took organisers by surprise.
“The ciphers sat outside the main Challenge competitions and were really a way of whetting the appetite ahead of the real competitions. However, with over a thousand people having a go inside the first week despite no prize being offered, it was obvious we had tapped into a real demand. As an employer, the interest in these puzzles was really heartening – whilst they seem like a bit of fun for those competing, they also test the very skills we look for in new employees”.
Following the success of the ciphers during the last Challenge, PwC has committed to developing another set. This time, the ciphers will form part of an official series of ‘one off’ competitions run throughout the year.