Computer hacking directly affects thousands of people and companies every day. Of late, there’ve been stories of how the voting records of more than 18 million Mexicans were accessible online, all data from a dating site being traded and more recently, the Bangladesh central bank was raided for many millions of dollars.
This is a game. The challengers have to perform the same type of attacks that the bad guys do on enterprise computers. So in a game like this one, we expose students to the skills that the bad guys are using. After being warned not to try and break Cambridge University, the teams of four students got to work on a series of hacking challenges designed by engineers at Facebook.
So what’ve you been doing? Have you cracked the base?
Maybe. A few times.
The idea is for me to find some hidden secrets in this farm, which I’m about to.
Is that a thrill?
It makes me excited.
In the end, the teams are just competing for bragging rights. But as Birmingham’s captain explained, in real life, the stakes will be much higher.
I mean, I can take the example of my PhD. I work on automotive vehicle security, car security. There are so many hacks out there and the stakes are like, you know, human lives.
Scary stuff. So perhaps there’s no surprise that the police were spectating at the event. Why are you here?
There’s a number of reasons I’m here. I mean, firstly, part of my role is around the prevent agenda, the counterterrorism prevent agenda where we are looking at deradicalization, or preventing people becoming the black cat hackers and the kind of evil coders and actually bringing them into the ethical hacking space.
It is obvious that these are powerful techniques that could be used for good or evil.
I mean isn’t it the truth just that everything is broken?
Well, you could say maybe that’s the best time to get in cyber security. That’s the best time to be in this business, right? Because there is a shortage of skilled experts on the good side.
The competition will help forge links between groups of students who in the future may be controlling our cyber defenses. And as for this, the inaugural year of the competition, the result went to… Can you guess?
Now, with a mix of pride and embarrassment, I award top prize to the Cambridge team.