Cyber prodigies defend smart home from real-time invasion

Last Friday saw 42 cyber security prodigies defend an Internet of Things (IoT)-connected smart home from a cyber-savvy criminal gang, in an ultra-realistic simulated competition jointly run by Roke and Cabinet Office-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK. More than just a game, the competition sought to discover the UK’s top cyber talent and inspire careers at the frontline of the UK’s cyber defence.

Transforming bedroom hackers into the UK’s cyber defence squad

The cyber security industry is in critical need of more professionals to secure businesses, governments and homes, with a recent report predicting the shortfall of skilled cyber workers to reach 1.8 million globally by 2022.

>See also: The Cyber Retraining Academy: training industry-ready cyber professionals

Meanwhile, as cyber skills become ingrained in our society, countless teenagers highly skilled in the art of hacking remain hidden away in their bedrooms, unaware of their value. The Cyber Security Challenge and its sponsors (including Roke) work to bridge this gulf, with the Face-to-Face competition on Friday helping to unearth these skilled individuals for the benefit of all.

The scenario: Exploring the looming threat of hackable homes

The contestants formed specialised cyber-units to defend a simulated Smart Home at Roke’s Romsey site. Working as a team, they were tasked to identify and secure the vulnerabilities in new, intelligent household gadgets like smart locks, security cameras – and even coffee machines. In a race against the adversary, they discovered how vulnerabilities in the system had been exploited to gain access.

More than just a game

“The desire for convenience means our homes are filling with devices that talk to and share information with each other, with our phones, and with servers on the internet,” commented Mark West, Roke’s information security lead.

>See also: WW2 code-deciphering base to be turned into coding school

“But the downside of the lights being on as you arrive home is the risk that a hacker could use these systems to gain access to your personal data. It’s vital that we have the ability to make sure that these devices are secure.”

In fact, the need to secure the IoT was highlighted on the global stage late last year when the Mirai botnet brought down popular services such as Netflix and Twitter. The Cyber Security Challenge competitions help companies such as Roke fend off such attacks and protect the nation as a whole.

What does it take to be a cyber warrior?

“The types of scenarios that we put our candidates through are based on real-world scenarios, but with an added twist to really see who has the skills and potential to join the profession, said Nigel Harrison, acting chief executive of Cyber Security Challenge UK. “These competitions are a great way for candidates to experience what the industry is like and for employers to pick out potential recruits.”


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...