A 28-year-old chemist with no formal IT training has won the UK Cyber Security Challenge, having come first in Cassidian and HP's Masterclass final.
The final took place in Bristol on Saturday and saw 40 finalists attempting to ward off cyber attacks on a fictional Formula One racing team's networks and come the end Stephen Miller was crowned the winner.
Miller has been a participant in the Challenge since 2010. Previously he had no cyber security training and works as a lab team manager at an unnamed major pharmaceutical company.
As winner, Miller will be offered a choice of career-enhancing prizes worth over £100,000. These include training courses, access to industry events and opportunities for paid internships and university bursaries.
The news comes during widespread reports the UK is suffering a skills shortage of cyber security professionals.
Cyber Security Challenge UK chief executive, Stephanie Daman, said Miller's success proves how retraining existing professionals as well as younger students can help fill the skills gap.
"Stephen's success in the Challenge, as a chemist with no formal training in this profession, is a powerful demonstration of the hidden talent that exists in people from across all types of professional backgrounds," said Daman.
"Identifying and nurturing this talent is vital for the success of UK PLC as even sectors as seemingly unconnected as pharmaceuticals contain vital intellectual property that must be protected."
Miller added that the training has already helped improve security at his current job, despite the fact that he remains separate to the company's IT department.
"To have won the Cyber Security Challenge UK is amazing. It's a result that gives me huge confidence to start applying this expertise to protect information and data in my own workplace," said Millar.
Filling the skills gap has been a key goal of the UK government's new cyber security strategy.
The strategy is designed to improve young people's perception of cyber security as a career via a number of education reforms and new apprentice schemes.
Despite the efforts many groups have questioned the strategy's effectiveness.
Most recently the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report claiming despite the government's efforts the skills gap will still last 20 years and cost the nation £27bn a year.
Nonetheless, Daman remains convinced that the Cyber Security Challenge can help address the skills gap, and recently laid out her plan to move the initiative forward (see video).
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