UK teens to study cyber warfare through GCHQ-backed programme

Cyber Security Challenge UK is partnering with US defence giant Northrop Grumman

The GCHQ-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK is going to teach UK students aged 12 to 18 cyber defence skills through the importation of the US-created Cyber Patriot programme.

The US Air Force Association Cyber Patriot youth programme involves 1,500 international teams of under-18s representing countries ranging from Japan to South Korea.

The scheme is credited with engaging more than 250,000 children in cybersecurity across the US - 80 per cent of which will now pursue a Higher Education course in cybersecurity or another STEM field.

Cyber Security Challenge UK, which runs competitions, programmes and networking events designed to inspire UK teenagers to become cyber security professionals, is partnering with US defence giant Northrop Grumman, manufacturer of the USAF's B-2 Stealth Bomber, on the rollout of the programme in the UK.

The programme, to be known as CyberCenturion in the UK, will be offered to army cadets, scout groups, schools and colleges across Britain .

It is designed to allow anyone interested in the world of cyber security to get their first real experience of the scenarios and challenges existing professionals have to undertake on a daily basis.

"Northrop Grumman's education programme is the perfect fit for those individuals that have already been bitten by the cyber bug but have yet to find a way to apply their knowledge to real cyber security challenges," said Stephanie Daman, CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK.

"The fact that this is a team competition is particularly exciting as it opens up the possibility of new types of candidates coming forward to play. You can imagine everyone from local scout groups to computer clubs building teams for this type of competition."

CyberCenturion will be positioned between the existing Cyber Security Challenge programme for secondary schools, and the main Challenge competition programme. The rules of the game are explained in full by the organisers.

CyberCenturion is played by teams of between four and six people. Each team must include a responsible adult as the liaison between the organisers and the participants and the participants must be 18 years or under when the game is played. The competition consists of two rounds. Both rounds involve downloading a virtual computer image full of vulnerabilities that could present opportunities for a cyber criminal.

The teams have approximately six hours, within a window of approximately two days, to identify and fix these vulnerabilities. The game runs on an internal clock, so judging can be based both on the vulnerabilities identified and fixed and the time taken to complete the task.

Different scores are assigned to each vulnerability depending on its complexity with an increase from basic to advanced level weakness as you move from the first to the second round. The scores from both rounds are combined to create a final result and the top six teams will advance to a face to face showdown in April 2015. The prizes on offer for those who win the grand final are all career enhancing opportunities such as internships at Northrop Grumman and places at industry conferences.

"The CyberCenturion competition will provide a way for young people interested in the world of cyber security to understand the cyber challenges of today, test their cyber defence skills and inspire them in their choice of career," said Andrew Tyler, chief executive Europe at Northrop Grumman.

The team competition begins in October with a practice round, followed by two competition rounds - one later the same month, and one in January 2015.

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