Drone battles test student cyber-defenders' code-breaking skills

Tech-savvy students will compete today in a Back to the Future meets Robot Wars cyber competition to find the ultimate young code-breakers.

Six school teams of 14 to 17-year-olds from across the UK will fight it out to win the Schools Final of the Cyber Security Challenge. Following months of code-breaking exercises, plus a virtual competition run in IT lessons and after-school coding clubs, the young code-breakers made it to the final in Cheltenham on Friday.  

The teams will receive a remote-control car, a software package and hardware to construct their own drones to compete in the final cyber-battlefield at Cheltenham College in the afternoon.

“Engaging young people in cyber-related subjects is vital if we are going to have the talent for the future,” Stephanie Daman, CEO at Cyber Security Challenge, said. “Taking part in clubs and competitions like this will allow students to learn and get excited about careers in cyber-security.”

Once teams are in the ring they will need to use their drones to defend themselves from their peers’ attacks, which will include denial of service attacks as well as long-range targeted attacks to disarm individuals that are in the lead.

The ultimate winner will have to collect ‘spare fuel’ from sensor pads and bring it back to base in order to power the ‘Flux Capacitor’ and bring the team home. All school teams will get to take their homemade drones back to their schools, with additional perks for the winning team.  

The Cyber Security Challenge Schools Programme was set up to spark students’ interest in code-breaking and cyber-security. The lesson plans are also designed to hone IT skills, crack codes and learn soft skills needed in the security arena.

The challenge was run in association with global technology and defence company Raytheon in a bid to increase cyber education and fill the cyber-skills gap in the UK.

Paul Crichard, head of Cyber Research at Raytheon, said: “There is a serious cyber-skills gap at present and we are looking for people with a passion for solving the most difficult problems in science, technology and defence.”

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