19-year-old wins UK Cyber Security Challenge

Computer sciences student Jonathan Millican from North Yorkshire is the winner of the latest edition of the UK Cyber Security Challenge, having successfully passed a number of tests during the last six months and having demonstrated knowledge that goes beyond his years.

This is only the second edition of the challenge, which is supported by the British signals intelligence agency GCHQ, the Metropolitan Police Central e-crime Unit and by a number of big firms such as SANS, Sophos, HP, Cassidian, BT, SAIC and QinetiQ.

ZDNet reports that Millican competed against 4,000+ contestants in a series of challenges that required of them both technical and organizational skills and a feel for teamwork, and it culminated with a Challenge Masterclass grand final this Saturday.

And even though his team didn’t win in this last challenge – which consisted of a simulation of a company experiencing security challenges within which finalists have to identify the problem, identify the solution, and sell it to the company’s decision makers – he was named the final winner because the judges felt he showed great leadership, strong technical abilities and an understanding of the impact his actions would have on a business.

“I’ve never really thought about cyber security,” shared Millican after his victory was announced. “The degree I’m currently undertaking in computer science was largely out of general interest in the subject. This award has acted as validation that I might have the skills to become a cyber security professional.”

“What’s important is that what I have learned through this process has not just come from undertaking the competitions but from the people I have met, both candidates and professionals that together have offered a fantastic insight into an industry within which I am now seriously considering a career.”

The organizers should be satisfied, as the ultimate goal of the challenge is to entice people to enter the field of cyber security, so that UK companies and the government have a wider and more knowledgeable talent pool from which to recruit their employees.

Among the prizes Millican – a first-year student at Cambridge – has won is a paid masters degree in a computer security-related subject at Royal Holloway, University of London. “If I’m offered a postgraduate degree at Cambridge, I may take it, and go to Royal Holloway afterwards,” he commented.

As this edition of the Challenge has ended, registration for the next one has been opened, and this time even IT security professionals will be able to apply. Among the new competitions in the next Challenge will be a NetWars competition sponsored by SANS, a “Can You Talk Security?” challenge sponsored by BT and Get Safe Online, and a non-technical stream of competitions.

“The Challenge is working hard to confirm the exciting new idea of a Cyber Camp for our younger candidates in the 18 to 25 age group,” say the organizers. “The idea is that a four day weekend residential experience, to be hosted by new sponsor Lancaster University, would provide a fun way to encourage and nurture the next generation of professionals by training them in cyber defence techniques and introducing them to some of the UK’s cyber security leaders.”

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