A 19-year-old student has been crowned as the UK’s Cyber Security Champion after a gruelling two-day national cyber attack simulation.
Will Shackleton, a student at the University of Cambridge who develops mobile apps in his spare time, beat over 3,000 entrants and 41 fellow finalists in a cyber defence battle at the Churchill War Rooms in London designed by experts from BT, GCHQ, the National Crime Agency, Juniper Networks and Lockheed Martin.
The two-day Cyber Security Challenge Masterclass final saw 42 of the UK's most talented amateur cyber security experts, selected during 12 months of online and face-to-face cyber battles, go head-to-head over Friday and Saturday of last week with the winner announced on Saturday evening.
"It's a big surprise and a huge honour. I never considered a career in cyber security before taking part in the Challenge but playing their competitions and meeting the industry leaders has shown me there are exciting jobs which need filling", said Shackleton, who recently secured a summer internship at Facebook.
"I'm convinced security is an area I want to pursue and I can't wait to take what I have learnt from the Challenge into my university studies and summer internship, and eventually into a job where I can do this stuff for real."
Over the two days finalists worked in teams to investigate and nullify a campaign of virtual terror that struck first within London's financial district, making online banking platforms inaccessible, new stock market floatations impossible, and compromising BACS systems.
Initial suggestions of a DDoS attack proved false as finalists uncovered a sophisticated spearfishing ransomware campaign using emails that appear to come from trusted sources but contained links or downloadable files that infected entire networks when opened.
The malicious code released by these emails encrypted the contents of those networks before demanding money from the victims in exchange for their recovery. After spreading beyond the City to affect the transport, power and utilities sectors, the scenario culminated in a potentially life-threatening attack on a nuclear powerplant which, thankfully, competitors managed to avert.
Shackleton will now receives his choice of rewards from a collection of 90 career-enhancing prizes worth over £100,000 including industry training, university courses, and access to strategic industry events.
Stephanie Daman, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK said: "Over the past three days we have given our candidates the most authentic experience of a what a real cyber attack will look and feel like for civilians in the UK. We have put them in the situations they can expect to experience as full-time professionals.
“They have all done incredibly well to get here and the quality of skills on show is amazing. What is most impressive it that none of these finalists are cyber professionals already, the majority of them are self-taught. It's a real demonstration that the hidden talent is there to be discovered in every corner of the UK – we just need to find it."
Registrations for the 2014/15 programme of competitions open today. Visit the Cyber Security Challenge website for information.