Mission Possible: From Cyber Geeks to Superheroes

Raytheon UK hosts a simulated cyber hacking challenge at London's iconic BT Tower with fictitious hacking group 'Flag Day Associates' playing their part.

With crime and terror escalating online, today’s companies require a new generation of digital defence warriors ready to defend the UK against the growing global cyber threats.

To unearth untapped talent, Raytheon cyber experts hosted a 007 style national security mission in which some of the UK’s finest cyber amateurs competed to prevent a simulated, real-time, cyber-terrorist strike in under 1800 seconds.

Designed by Raytheon to emulate the recent Heartbleed and Shellshock attacks, the challenge took place on Saturday 21 February at London’s iconic BT Tower. The sophisticated strike saw cyber amateurs battle to infiltrate a model server system and try to win back control of a large building’s power supply which had brought the BT Tower’s revolving observation deck to a standstill. On outsmarting a fictitious hacking group, the BT Tower’s observation deck kicked back into power, signalling the winning team’s success at defending a physical infrastructure against attack.

“We designed this contest to mimic the high-pressure emergency situations that real-world professionals have to deal with, and show gifted people who may just try code-breaking or reverse engineering as a hobby, that their talents are actually vital to the UK economy,” said Raytheon UK’s head of cyber research, Paul Crichard.

The amateur code-breakers – selected from more than nine months of intensive national assessments – were analysed on their ability to use some of the cyber security industry’s finest crime-fighting tools, from cryptography to Kali-Linux, one of the most advanced penetration testing packages ever created. Experts from Raytheon UK, GCHQ, the National Crime Agency, BT, C3IA and Airbus Group assessed their mission performance.

“The skills and enthusiasm on display in these competitions show the wealth of innovation the UK could be tapping into. We are now working on new ways to grow this talent pipeline across the UK; Raytheon recently launched a new cyber innovation competition aimed at UK SMEs with prizes totalling £100,000,” commented Crichard.

The winning team on the day was made up of Adam Tonks, a student from Cirencester currently studying at Bournemouth University; Darren Brooke, an IT consultant, from Pontypridd, South Wales; Robert Laverick, who runs a software development consultancy in Redcar; and Steve Haughton, a network manager from Cardiff. They each receive a range of prizes including Xbox Ones.

In addition the ten best performers on the day have been invited to take part in the Challenge’s grand final – The Masterclass in March. Here finalists from all four of the Challenge’s competitions will come together in London to battle each other in the UK’s largest-ever simulated cyber attack.

This Raytheon UK challenge is part of a programme of competitions the company hosts as part of its sponsorship of the government-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK, with the aim of raising awareness of career opportunities for talented young people in a booming cyber security industry, and addressing a national cyber security talent shortage.

Stephanie Daman, CEO at the Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “The recent Carbanak attack that plundered global banks show that the economic cost of cyber-crime is continually rising. The resources that UK industry leaders are now investing to attracting new talent through events like these indicate that they are taking the threat to our economy very seriously. The industry is dedicated to finding new ways to address the critical talent shortage across Britain, as we see rising cyber-crime posing a threat to UK assets and even critical infrastructure.”

Raytheon UK is a proud sponsor of Cyber Security Challenge UK. The Challenge runs a series of national inspirational competitions aimed at attracting talented people into the profession and informing them about cyber security careers and learning opportunities. Now in its fourth year, it is running an ambitious programme of competitions and activities designed to spread the word about why cyber security is such a fulfilling and varied career and help talented people get their first cyber security jobs. It is sponsored by some of the UK’s most prestigious public, private and academic organisations and is making a notable difference to the career prospects of those with the talents and aptitude to become cyber security professionals.