With as many as 300,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States alone, a more secure future depends greatly on growing the pipeline of technical talent available to government and the private sector.
But the US isn’t alone in those needs -- and now, students in the United Kingdom have a new way to test their cyber mettle.
Building on the US Cyber Patriot program in the US, created by the Air Force Association and presented by the Northrop Grumman Foundation, eight teams recently competed in the first CyberCenturion, the UK's first team-based cyber security contest specifically designed to attract 12- to 18-year olds.
Delivered by a partnership between Northrop Grumman and Cyber Security Challenge UK, the competition aims to engage talented young people with an interest in cyber as a way to address the national skills gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and encourage careers in cyber security.
“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, in order to curb the skills gap we are experiencing now,” said Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge UK. "Partnering with Northrop Grumman provides an opportunity to draw on the company's invaluable expertise and experience in delivering cyber skills education across the US.”
CyberCenturion’s National Finals Competition was held in the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park and was won by a team from King Edward VI Grammar School (KEGS), Chelmsford in Essex. It marked the successful completion of nine months of intense competition representing the UK's first national cyber security competition, outside of the classroom, for this age group.
Eight teams competed in last week's final, each taking on the role of cyber-experts at a fictional video games company under attack by rival businesses trying to steal valuable industry information.
Their task was to protect sensitive customer data and valuable intellectual property against theft by malicious hackers. Contestants battled it out under the watchful eyes of world-leading cyber experts from Northrop Grumman, Fujitsu, the National Museum of Computing, the National Commissioner and the US Air Force Association's CyberPatriot program.
"Promoting education in STEM and building the talent pool in cyber is a core focus for Northrop Grumman and CyberCenturion has provided a fantastic opportunity for young people interested in the world of cyber security to get their first real experience of the scenarios and challenges that professionals have to grapple with on a daily basis," said Andrew Tyler, chief executive, Northrop Grumman Europe. "We offer our congratulations to the winners from KEGS and look forward to continuing our partnership with Cyber Security Challenge UK to grow CyberCenturion so that it will be as successful in the UK as CyberPatriot has been in the US in cultivating the cyber professionals of the future."
Northrop Grumman announced that it has renewed its commitment to run the successful CyberCenturion competition for a second year in 2016, continuing its efforts to seek out the UK's best young cyber talent.
Simulating difficult cyber situations to help train tomorrow’s top talent is a key tool used by leading practitioners in the field.
The National Security Agency recently completed its 15th Cyber Defense Exercise, where 160 students from the nation’s military academies (and a handful of students from the Royal Military College of Canada) competed against NSA professionals in a cyber simulation.
“These types of events are crucial,” Alex Gates, an official at NSA’s Information Assurance Directorate, which handles the agency’s defensive operations, recently told Passcode. “There’s a lot of value in taking something beyond the concept and actually practicing it during an exercise where you can make mistakes, and learn from them, and improve the way we do our overall mission.”
CyberCenturion is the UK version of the proven CyberPatriot competition, part of a major US national youth cyber STEM education program.
It is part of Northrop Grumman’s commitment to promoting STEM education and to helping build the UK's pool of talent in cybersecurity. The CyberPatriot competition in the US has already engaged more than 250,000 children, 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.
Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernisation to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit www.northropgrumman.com for more information.