A student from Lancaster University has been named the UK winner of the DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge, a global competition designed and hosted by the US Department of Defense that forms part of the Cyber Security Challenge UK.
Christopher Richardson, currently studying for a PhD in intrusion detection systems, took the top prize and booked his place in the UK Challenge’s face-to-face play-offs amongst winners from other competitions, at the start of next year. He registered the highest score achieved in the UK stream of the competition so far and beat 185 fellow countrymen to claim top spot. Christopher’s performance, under the pseudonym ‘Ikarus’, saw him ranked 9th globally amongst 1,791 competitors from 52 countries.
The DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge is a global challenge designed and hosted by the US Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center. Players from all over the world compete in what is considered one of the toughest forensic challenges in the world. It takes the form of several individual scenario-based challenges representing the complexity that digital forensics examiners face extracting and scrutinising data to solve cyber crime. Areas covered include file signatures, hashing metadata, data hiding, communication recovery, and information concealment. There are even a few problems that have not yet been fully resolved.
“It was difficult in parts but really enjoyable,” says Chris. “I have always had an interest in a wide range of security areas both inside and outside of my academic speciality and this competition gave me a platform to test my skills on practical problems with real world relevance. After getting stuck a couple of times, I didn’t think I had done that well, but to win the UK stream and do so well across the whole competition feels great.”
The Cyber Security Challenge UK and its supporters from industry, government and academia, run a series of competitions each year to identify new cyber security talent that can meet the urgent need to attract more skilled professionals into the cyber security sector. Challenge competitions look for the skills and aptitude that employers require. Entrants include sixth form students, undergraduates, post graduates, unemployed and those employed, but not working in cyber security.
"The issues facing law enforcement and cyber security employers in the UK are mirrored by their counterparts in the US,” says Jim Christy, Director of Futures Exploration at the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3). “The success of the DC3 Digital Forensic Challenge over the past six years has demonstrated that the talent is out there, and the success of Christopher and his fellow countrymen suggests the UK has a similarly untapped community of highly competent individuals who can fill these critical, low density, high demand jobs."
As this year’s DC3 Digital Forensics champion, Christopher wins a training course worth up to £2,000 with 7Safe, providers of highly regarded university-accredited courses and certifications in information security. He also qualifies, alongside several runners up, for the Sophos Malware Hunt on January 14th, where competitors will be asked to identify and explain a range of real malicious code from the vaults at Sophos Labs in a bid to prevent data theft and system failure.
“Chris is a great example of the type of person we have within the UK that up to now may have been lost to the cyber profession despite his undoubted ability”, says Alan Phillips CEO, 7Safe. “Without a platform to showcase what they can do in view of employers who desperately need their skills, it has proved difficult in the past for talented amateurs to break into the industry. The Challenge is a key component of a new approach that the profession must embrace – it’s about focusing on natural aptitude first, and then bringing in certifications and training courses like the ones we are offering Chris, to mould that aptitude into a professional skills set.”
“We are delighted that one of our students has demonstrated his skills so clearly,” says Dr Daniel Prince, Course Director for the MSC in Cyber Security at Lancaster University. “Lancaster is a strong supporter of the Cyber Security Challenge and we are looking at ways that we can support the important work they are doing to inspire more talented people to choose cyber security as a profession.”
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