Calling all hackers…

Calling all hackers…

So you can hack into a luxury car! You could be just what the UK needs.

Thirty cyber security amateurs have been competing against one-other in a realistic simulated cyber attack on a car company. Why? In a bid to find the country’s best cyber talent.

Protection Group International (PGI) and Cyber Security Challenge UK recently ran a competition where amateur hackers, in a role known as ‘red teaming’, were asked to infiltrate GPS trackers to find vulnerabilities they could exploit. The trackers were  installed on a range of luxury motor cars offered by a fictional company ‘Premiere Vehicles’.

This competition was part of Cyber Security Challenge UK’s 2017 programme of competitions.  The challenge, which is backed by the UK Cabinet Office, aims to plug the skills gap in the UK's cyber security industry where there are just 0.3 applicants per job.

The competition was designed to reflect scenarios that cyber security professionals face in real-life such as 2016’s IoT DDoS cyber-attack, in which thousands of internet-connected devices were hijacked and used to bring down popular websites such as Reddit and Twitter.

The amateur hackers were tested on their ability to break into the devices and use them as entry points into Premiere Vehicles' company’s network. Along the way, skills in network analysis, digital forensics and brute force attacks were assessed by industry experts. Contestants then had to think like attackers in order to defend the organisation from future attacks: it is important to know how your enemy operates so that you can block their attacks. At every stage the competitors were asked to justify their actions against ethical guidelines to ensure safe and legal practice.

As well as digital skills, defending an organisation requires innovative thinking, coordination and teamwork so the hackers were also given tasks that combined clandestine techniques in both physical and digital environments. Success meant being able to use the GPS devices as entry point to subvert the Premiere Vehicles IT systems and gate-crash a VIP launch event. The winners were rewarded with a test drive in Audi’s new RS Q3.

Team ‘Turing’, consisting of 17-year-old James Nock, Michael Senior, Dennis Jackson, Andrew Walsh and Kieran Amrane-Rendall, were judged the winners. Ten competitors will go through to a masterclass later this year. Since the Cyber Security Challenge UK launched its competitions in 2010, over half the candidates from the Face-to-Face and Masterclass competitions have been hired for cyber security roles, demonstrating the effectiveness of these competitions. It seems clear that the competition tests abilities across a number of highly sought after disciplines relevant to cyber security, uncovering talent that might otherwise have remained hidden.

Photo copyright djedzura under licence from


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