Experts at GCHQ aimed to teach civilians and military personnel how to defend against cyber attacks at the army's Defence Academy in Wiltshire today.
Up to 50 people, mostly in their 20s, received training from the communications agency as part of wider government plans to increase the number of people pursuing careers in the cybersecurity industry in a bid to help combat the increasing number of cyber attacks against the public and private sectors.
GCHQ told Techworld that the contestants would learn valuable cyber defence skills through a competition that it has been developing over the last two months.
"It's based around web app security," a GCHQ technical expert said. "It involves looking at fictitious websites that have vulnerabilities."
The goal is to uncover the vulnerabilities and fix them.
The contestants were at the army training base in Shrivenham as part of a "Cyber Camp" being run by Cyber Security Challenge UK and several other sponsors, such as defence companies Qinetiq and Raytheon, PwC and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
GCHQ added that it was looking for "bright sparks" that it could recruit.
Software tester and contestant Ese Oduyuye, 36, said: "I try and break stuff every day at work and I've always been interested in security.
"I'm hoping to learn a lot more about cyber security while networking as much as possible.
"Of course I'd like to work for someone like GCHQ. Who wouldn't? You hear about them doing all sorts of stuff in the news and it sounds like an awesome place."
Meanwhile, contestant and recent RealVNC employee, Andrew Mabbit, 20, said he wasn't sure if he wanted to work for GCHQ.
He said: "You work for GCHQ or the National Crime Agency and you get to do lots of interesting stuff that you'll never be able to do elsewhere. You work for the private sector, you get to have a really nice car."
Stephanie Danam, CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: "We're looking to identify people with cybersecurity skills and then give them the tools to enter the profession."
Cyber Security Challenge UK has run similar programmes in the past but this is the first to involve military personnel.
"The army itself has a requirement for cybersecurity and it helps military personnel go for the right jobs within the army," said Daman. "The army is really short on people who are properly qualified."
Each of the candidates will be given the opportunity to gain a professional cybersecurity qualification at the end of the Cyber Camp when they sit an exam set by InfoSec Skills.
InfoSec Skills CEO Terry Neal said he expects 50 percent of candidates to pass.