A Bournemouth University (BU) student has been crowned the UK’s Cyber Security Champion after competing against the country’s best amateur cyber talent.
Final year BSc Forensic Computing and Security student Adam Tonks won the Cyber Security Challenge UK award, beating thousands of entrants over a year of online and face-to-face cyber challenges to win the title.
The challenge culminated in a simulated cyber-battle aboard the HMS Belfast in London, with 41 finalists investigating and averting a simulated cyber terrorist plot.
Adam said: “For the final, we were tasked with responding to a cyber attack on the HMS Belfast, which had been taken over by a group attempting to use the ship's cannons to destroy City Hall.
“We were working in teams of six, and had to investigate the trail of events that led to the system's compromise, follow the actions taken by intruders once they were inside the system, and regain control of the server controlling the ship's guns.”
The 48-hour final of the competition was set by BT and the British security and intelligence organisation GCHQ, among others, with regular briefings from the national computer emergency response team CERT-UK to make the scenario as lifelike as possible.
“There was a lot of pressure during the challenge - we had to make multiple briefings to CERT-UK and there were new developments popping up on a regular basis,” said Adam.
“Overall, though, it was a lot of fun working through it all, and a very rewarding experience.”
Adam received his pick of prizes worth over £100,000 for winning the competition and chose a voucher for a SANS cyber security training course, which he’ll be taking later this year.
He believes his degree course and time on placement at internet services company Netcraft Ltd. contributed to winning the challenge.
“I was pretty surprised when they announced I’d won, but I'm extremely happy and hope to make the most of it,” Adam said.
“The challenge highlights how much you don't know about things, so ever since starting the challenge I've been learning more and more about areas that I previously knew nothing about, and I feel like I have a basic knowledge of some of the common areas now.
“We were also assessed on our soft skills, which I think - thanks to both the challenge and university - have improved for me over time.”
Adam added that he hopes the win will help him pursue a career in cyber security.
“I will definitely be entering into a cyber career when I graduate, and the challenge has helped massively with helping me achieve this. The amount of support given to the contestants through the challenge and its sponsors is incredible!
“If anyone has an interest in cyber, I would highly recommend signing up for the challenge, even if it's just to play the online competitions. It's a fantastic learning experience.”