The UK's Cyber Security Challenge began accepting registrations Monday for a series of computer security exercises designed to spur interest in the field.
Three exercises will take place later this year, covering network defense, Web site vulnerability detection and a forensics challenge, said Judy Baker, director of the organisation.
The Cyber Security Challenge is a nonprofit group designed to foster more awareness of computer security as a career field and raise awareness of job opportunities. It is supported by organizations such as the Institute of Information Security Professionals, the Information Assurance Advisory Council, the Cabinet Office, commercial vendors and others.
The three challenges are a mix of individual and team work. For the Qinetiq Network Defense Competition, teams of three to five players will be sent material describing a problem a business may encounter. They'll have six weeks to work on a fix.
The challenge will have a small networks category for 17 and 18-year-olds and a medium networks category for graduate and postgraduate students. Two teams from each category will be picked for a face-to-face network defense exercise at Qinetiq's headquarters in Farnborough, England.
A second challenge -- the SANS Institute and Sophos treasure hunt -- will test participants' knowledge of Web site vulnerabilities. The top six participants will advance to another face-to-face competition designed by Sophos.
The third test is the DC3 Forensics Challenge, a U.K. version of the U.S. Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) Digital Forensics Challenge, Baker said. At least 22 teams will undertake 25 challenges covering digital forensics.
The top candidates and teams from the three challenges will be invited to attend the Cyber Security UK Masterclass to be held in January 2011. One participant will be named the U.K.'s Cyber Security Champion, with potential prizes including tuition reimbursement, training and internships with companies.
Participants in the three challenges will be judged on their technical acumen and communication skills.
"We need people who are deeply technical but we also need people who are good communicators," Baker said. "We will be looking at a range of competencies as well as the technical ones."
Creating challenges that replicate real-world problems will also give participants a better idea of what sort of computer security skills are needed in work places, said Kevin Streater, executive director of employer engagement for IT and telecoms at Open University, which is helping design challenges.
"We are very interested in getting involved in the challenges to show what skills and jobs are in the industry," Streater said.