March 12, 2012

19-Year-Old Wins Cyber Security Competition

A 19-year-old U.K. student has been named the "Cyber Security Champion" after winning a competition showcasing Internet security intelligence.

Jonathan Millican won the award after a six-month-long challenge designed to attract talented people to the cyberdefense industry.

Judges at the competition said Millican had demonstrated knowledge "years beyond his time" of the subject.

He won the competition after taking part in a final series of challenges hosted by HP Labs, which pitted six five-person teams against each other on Saturday.

During the competition, teams had to advise a start-up company on how to best protect itself from hackers, and then reconfigure a computer network during a 15-minute long simulated attack.

Although Millican's team was beaten by a rival, judges determined that he deserved the top prize.

"He showed great leadership, strong technical abilities and also demonstrated that he understood the impact what he was doing would have on a business," Adam Thompson, the chief judge who works for Hewlett Packard's security team, told BBC.

The competition was sponsored by the intelligence agency GCHQ, as well as telecoms giant BT, defense firm Cassidian and security technology maker Qinetiq.

Millican has been offered a paid follow-up masters degree at Royal Holloway, University of London.

He has also been invited to visit communications intelligence agency GCHQ's Cheltenham base.

Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, the competition's patron and the Prime Minister's special representative to business on cybersecurity, said she hopes events like this would encourage children to put their computer skills to constructive use.

"There are people who are hacking and one of the worrying things is that they are regarded as heroes," she told the BBC.

Millican said he was most interested in the challenges posed by complex cyber attacks, like the Stuxnet work that is notorious for attacking Iran's nuclear systems.


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