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British amateur takes top accolade in US Military Cyber Security Competition

Published: 03/01/13

•             Chris Doman, 26, beats over 1200 cyber teams from 53 countries on his own to finish as the number one civilian in the world

•             He receives 7Safe training courses and chance to compete for £100,000s worth of career enabling prizes as part of the Cyber Security Challenge UK

Chris Doman, a 26 year old software developer from Essex has finished as the highest-ranked civilian and second overall in the 2012 DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge, a global cyber security challenge designed and hosted by the US Department of Defense Cyber Crime Centre (DC3), which forms one of the competitions run by   Cyber Security Challenge UK. Chris beat competition from almost 2000 cyber defenders from 53 countries to finish second overall, losing out only to a team of professionals from the multibillion pound American global aerospace and defence technology company, Northrop Grumman.

The final standings provided further good news for the health of the country’s home-grown cyber talent pool as the UK contributed more participants than almost any other country, and was well represented at the top of the leader board, with two further UK amateurs, Matt Bartlett and Chris Moore, finishing in the top 12.

The Cyber Security Challenge UK began in 2010 as a series of national competitions to find talented people for increasing job opportunities in cyber security. Now in its third year, the Challenge has broadened its scope to act as a source of support and guidance for anyone interested in the profession. It is currently backed by over 50 organisations from across the cyber security landscape who contribute over £100,000 of career enabling prizes each year to candidates who demonstrate potential.

The DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge is a global competition designed and hosted by the US Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center.  The competition is run through Cyber Security Challenge UK and is one of their qualifying competitions for its own face to face events.   It is considered one of the toughest forensic competitions in the world, and  takes the form of several individual scenario-based exercises representing the complexity that digital forensics examiners face extracting and scrutinising data to solve cybercrime. Areas covered include file signatures, hashing metadata, data hiding, communication recovery, and information concealment.

Chris Doman is a computer science graduate, a former web developer, and the co-founder of Ignite Research, a start-up he set up in 2009 with a school friend to tackle various projects using their software expertise. Ignite’s latest project, Hotelsweep, represents the world’s largest collection of hotel data collected into a single system. His success in the DC3 competition came as a surprise and has prompted him to start applying for his first job in cyber security.

“It’s a year-long competition but I only decided to enter a month before it closed so time was a bit of an issue. I looked through all 34 challenges and wrote a plan of how to do them all and how long it would take. It’s all certainly possible to solve but it’s not easy and you have to think carefully about the time required for each challenge.”

“Security has always been an interest. At school I would publish computer security and operating system design tutorials. However setting up my own company left me with less time to pursue this interest. The Cyber Security Challenge has certainly reignited my love for cyber security and problem solving. I did better than I expected, and it’s given me a boost to start applying for work in this field.”

As one of the UK Challenge’s virtual qualifier competitions, the highest ranked UK participants from the DC3 competition are awarded prizes by the Challenge with Chris receiving a course of his choice from 7Safe’s portfolio of university-accredited computer forensics, ethical hacking, and information security certification training courses.

He has also booked his place at the next UK Challenge face-to-face play off, the Sophos Malware Hunt in January. Here 30 talented amateurs from various virtual first stage Challenge competitions will take on the role of forensics and defence specialists working for the UK Government and facing the nastiest creations of both cyber criminal gangs and nation states. They will compete for further prizes, and the chance to be crowned the UK Cyber Security Champion at the Masterclass  grand finale in March.

Chris will be joined at the Malware Hunt by his fellow top ranked UK candidates from the DC3 competition, IT professional Matt Bartlett, who finished ninth overall and Chris Moore a fourth year student at Durham University who finished 12th, the highest ranked undergraduate in the world.

Stephanie Daman, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK said: “Chris’ success in this global competition and the performance of UK competitors more generally is a powerful demonstration of the level of amateur talent we have here in the UK. Unfortunately for a profession like cyber security where employers are desperate to find new talent, Chris’ story of an early interest in the subject that wasn’t pursued in later life, is worryingly familiar. Without the opportunities provided by the competitions like the DC3 Digital Forensics and the Cyber Security Challenge UK, Chris and many others like him will be lost to the profession completely despite their undoubted ability.”

Jim Christy, Director of Futures Exploration at the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center said:  “This year’s DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge saw the highest ever number of players and submissions, and a significant increase in the standard of the competition. All this makes Chris’ achievement, finishing second as an individual and beating teams of professionals from some of the largest companies in the world, and government’s cyber workforces all the more remarkable.”  The new 2013 DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge was rolled out on the 17th Dec, so if you’re interested in participation visit our site: http://dc3.mil/challenge/2013/

Alan Phillips, 7Safe CEO said: “Competitions like the DC3 Digital Forensics and the Cyber Security Challenges are a key component of a new approach that the profession must embrace if we are to address the skills gap in cyber security here in the UK.  It’s about new innovative and engaging ways to identify natural aptitude first, then adding industry-recognised training like Chris has won to enhance that aptitude into a professional skills set.”


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