Discovering the Cyber Defenders of the future

Maxine Taylor
By , - Information Security

Last week we were delighted to support the Cyber Centurion Challenge final at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), Bletchley Park. Eight teams of students, including some of Britain’s brightest young minds, turned up ready to take part in the cyber battle.

The event was Britain’s first national cyber security contest for 12 – 18 year-olds. The challenge? To protect sensitive data for a fictitious videogames company under attack by competitors trying to steal valuable industry information.

Students arrived not only eager to start the competition, but also thrilled to be visiting the legendary Bletchley Park.

“Welcome to the home of British computing” Margaret Sale, Trustee (TNMOC), welcomed participants and visitors, “the next Tommy Flowers or Bill Tutte could be amongst your ranks”. An exciting prospect, and one we hope will prove true! The participants had gone through nine months of intensive tests to find the brightest young STEM talent and identify the problem solvers and cyber defenders of our future.

The WITCH Machine

 The WITCH Machine

As we were welcomed to the event we were treated to the sounds and lights of the WITCH machine running in the background, the world’s oldest original working computer. This was just the start of our trip into computing history…

As the competition kicked off we left the students to concentrate and took a tour around TNMOC.

The COLLUSSUS Electronic Computer

The COLLOSSUS Electronic Computer

A highlight was seeing the rebuilt, working Colossus machine: the world’s first electronic computer, used to decipher the Lorenz-encrypted messages (known as Tunny) between Hitler and his generals during World War II.

It was a privilege to see the machine working following its extraordinary 14 year restoration project – working from only eight photos, ten diagrams and the memories of Tommy Flowers, the original builder.

TNMOC is home to many computer treasures.  Its collection holds something for everyone to remind them of the first computer they used, whether at work or home.

Viewing some of the ICL technology on display

Learning more about the computing heritage of ICL and Fujitsu

As a Fujitsu employee I was very proud to see the prominent role ICL machines have played in the history of computing. It was great to see the rich heritage we have and how much Fujitsu has contributed.

Returning to the present day, Fujitsu is working with TNMOC to supplement the education programme and has provided a number of Fujitsu laptops for students to use. We also stepped in at short notice to loan TNMOC 20 laptops for the Cyber Centurion final.

The outstanding education programme at Bletchley plays host to over 4,500 students every year. As well as teaching students about the history of computing there is also a new exhibition; ‘Secrecy and Security’.  Recently launched by McAfee, this aims to teach young people about how to use the modern online world safely.

Back in the competition, we saw a mixture of intense activity, panic and high level performance! I was really impressed with what the students accomplished in such a short, pressured timescale.

Alan Turing's Desk Visiting Alan Turing’s desk – incredible to see what he achieved with the level of technology available!

The contest reflects a very real problem, as explained by Brigader General Bernie Skoch, Commissioner of the US game CyberPatriot. Cyber security is both a national security and business issue, with around $800 billion stolen each year through cyber attacks.

In the US alone there are 40,000 unfilled cyber security jobs, and in the UK there is a nationwide STEM skills gap that must be addressed. Cyber Centurion aims to encourage cyber security, maths and technology education to students all over the country – ensuring we have the future skills to keep our online world safe.

At the end of the competition, and after much effort, the Young Engineering Club from King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford were crowned the winners!  Many congratulations to them, and to all the teams who participated.

We were left with a closing thought from the CEO of Northrop Grumman, Andrew Tyler, about next year’s Cyber Centurion; ‘Next year we would like to see two Gs – growth and more girls!’ We absolutely agree.

The Cyber Centurion is delivered in partnership with Cyber Security Challenge UK and supported by Northrop Grunman.  Registration for the 2016 event is already open – find out more.

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