BARCLAYS delivers skills boost with Cyber Security Challenge UK competition

CERT-LatestNews ThreatsStrategic


BARCLAYS delivers skills boost with Cyber Security Challenge UK competition

The challenge seeks to unearth the UK’s hidden cyber talent and help address the critical cyber security skills gap. 

As well as offering an exciting and varied career, cyber security is lucrative, with jobs averaging over £60,000 per year after training.

The competition took place in national heritage site and grand country house, Radbroke Hall, which is also the current site of Barclays’ Technology Centre. 

In one scenario, the candidates took on the roles of interns who were staffing a fictitious security firm called ‘Research4U’. 

As their bosses were away, they were the ones charged to defend the business after a hacking group launched a large-scale cyber-attack aimed at stealing confidential technology, source code and client data. 

I think that cyber security requires such a diverse range of skills, that anyone can do it

Isabel Whistlecroft

The story saw hackers demand a ransom of £10m or else they would release the data to the press.

Competitors had to infiltrate and stop the fictional hacker group in order to destroy the leaked information before it could be released to media organisations. 

Leading cyber specialists from Barclays and other industry organisations judged the contestants on their vulnerability assessment, reconnaissance, attack strategies and espionage skills in order to rank their performance and suitability for careers in the industry.

The triumphant team was Wormhole, composed of Carolyn Yates, Isabel Whistlecroft, Kajusz Dykiel, Peter Campbell and Waldo Woch.

The eight contestants that have qualified for next month’s Masterclass grand finale include: Cameron Howes, Asher Caswell, Tom Brook, Vlad Ellis, Mohammed Rahman, David Young, Rajiv Shah and Isabel Whistlecroft. 


The challenge seeks to unearth the UK’s hidden cyber talent

They will join the previous winners from earlier in the year at the Masterclass event where they will compete against each other and have the opportunity to network with industry experts.

Career-enhancing prizes including degree scholarships, training courses, technology and gadgets and industry memberships will also be up for grabs.

The competition mirrors recent high profile attacks, such as WannaCry where hackers held organisations to ransom across the globe, and one on the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year.

Both highlighted the Government’s ability to protect Britain from high-level cyber-attacks is undermined by a skills shortage and that the need to find individuals with cyber skills has never been greater.

Troels Oerting, Barclays group chief security officer (CSO), commented: “We are no longer a traditional bank; we are a tech company with a balance sheet that delivers global services. It is more important than ever to defend ourselves against cyber criminals who are able to reach us from anywhere in the world, and this means bringing in more talent. Every minute, 7,300 sensitive personal data files are hacked from organisations across the world so we need to do more to protect customers and maintain their trust.


The story saw hackers demand a ransom of £10m or else they would release the data to the press

“In the UK, there is a much higher demand than the supply of cyber security professionals, so we support organisations like the Cyber Security Challenge UK to find and recruit talent of all ages that might have gone undiscovered. Cyber security is an extremely rewarding profession to be involved in and we are investing heavily in encouraging people of all background to join the sector and fight cyber-crime.” 

Bob Nowill, Cyber Security Challenge UK chairman, added: “The cyber security skills gap is estimated to reach 1.8m worldwide, by 2022 and around 350,000 in the UK. This shortfall will leave us vulnerable to cyber-attack unless we fill these roles. At the Challenge, we are looking for new people who might not have thought of working in cyber security to consider it as a professional career. There is a huge variety of jobs, from technical roles to leadership ones that are suitable for people from every background. The industry is crying out for people from all walks of life to help combat cybercrime, and we encourage anyone with an interest to sign up and play now.”

Reflecting on her success and what it could mean in the future, Isabel Whistlecroft, 22, from Wigan said: “One of my friends recommended I had a look at the Cyber Security Challenge UK, so I did, and I took the qualifier and got through to the competition. This is the second event I’ve attended. My interest in cyber security began during my third year of studying Computer Science at Manchester University and I thought I’d try a module on cyber security. I really enjoyed the module, and I realised cyber security would make a good career. I’m currently studying for a PHD in the subject.


The competition mirrors recent high profile attacks

“I enjoy cyber security because it involves a lot of problem solving. I’ve enjoyed working as a team during the competition. I think that cyber security requires such a diverse range of skills, that anyone can do it. It’s really important to have a mix of mindsets on a cyber security team, because there may be someone who thinks of a way of defending a system that hasn’t occurred to anyone else.”

Variety was also one of the big draws for Lisa Mattinson, a computer science teacher.

“I’m really interested in cyber security because of the variety of skills it involves,” she explained.

“Competitions like these show what real life work in cyber is like, and tests a variety of proficiencies like teamwork and technical expertise. Plus, you get to meet and work with great people from all sorts of places.” 

With the backing of founding sponsors like the SANS Institute, the Challenge started out in 2010 to create a series of virtual and face-to-face competitions that would identify talented people for the cyber security industry. 

Eight years on, the Challenge is backed by over 50 of the UK’s most prestigious public, private and academic organisations, and hosts a wide programme of activities. 

Working with those at schools, universities and those looking to change careers, half the candidates from the Face-to-Face and Masterclass competitions have successfully secured jobs in cyber security.