Twenty-one-year-old computing student Adam Tonks has been crowned winner of the UK's Cyber Security Challenge Masterclass, after 48 hours of fighting a simulated cyber attack.
After 12 months of online and face-to-face cyber battles set up by Cyber Security Challenge UK to find the UK's best amateur and hobby-hackers, Tonks managed to beat 41 fellow finalists in a challenge that tasked the hackers with seizing back control of HMS Belfast's guns.
At the same time, the hackers also had to search for digital holes in the IT system of a simulated water treatment facility to ensure fictional hacker group the Flag Day Associates could not hack that as well.
Tonks had already shown his hacking abilities in the Challenge's semi-final a month earlier, when he was the first person to hack back into the BT Tower's control server.
The student from Cirencester said he was shocked but honoured at winning this year's Cyber Security Challenge.
"I've learned so much from the whole experience and although it's been a gruelling few days, I've had a lot of fun working through every element that has been thrown at us by the UK's best cyber professionals. I'm really proud of this achievement," said Tonks.
While Tonks may be studying computing, he and other competitors throughout the Challenge's process had received no cyber security training, most having learned how to hack out of curiosity, Google searches and internet forum discussions.
The Challenge serves to highlight how there are more digital skills in the UK than the technology industry might realise.
When V3 visited the BT Tower hacking challenge, we noted how it appeared to be a talent scouting opportunity for the Challenge's sponsors, which include GCHQ, BT, Palo Alto Networks and Lockheed Martin.
Stephanie Daman, chief executive at Cyber Security Challenge UK, said that around half of last year's Masterclass finalists ended up with cyber security jobs.
"There is no reason why all 42 of our finalists this year can't follow in their footsteps," she said. "With the skills level on show we are confident that any one of our finalists would represent a highly valuable addition to our profession."
Tonks will doubtless have no trouble securing a cyber security job after he graduates, and with cyber security skills in high demand, it's quite possible that the Challenge's sponsors are already looking to attract him.
Events like the Challenge's Masterclass are indicative of a more practical approach companies are taking to spot and recruit people with digital skills.
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