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University in challenge

image of screen with magnifying glass & word 'password' highlightedBristol University announced yesterday that it is taking part in a unique code-breaking competition as part of this year’s Cyber Security Challenge UK. Four UK university computer science departments have accepted the challenge to develop their own cipher – a puzzle based on encrypted messages – that will be released to other participating universities and Challenge candidates to break.

The four-week virtual tournament started on Monday 21st January with a cipher from Bristol University and a new cipher will be released each week. The aim of the challenge is to inspire students who are particularly interested in cyber security careers and practising their skills. It will also act as a proof of concept for a series of inter-university competitions that the Cyber Security Challenge expects to run in the future.

The University Cipher Challenge is being co-ordinated by the Cyber Security Challenge UK and PwC. A scoring system has been developed by cyber security professionals at PwC and each university will be marked in 3 categories: ingenuity of cipher design; successful cracking of another university’s cipher; and least number of “cracks” by other Challenge candidates.

Stephanie Daman, the CEO of Cyber Security Challenge UK, said: “The University Cipher Challenge is something completely new. This is the first time that universities have been asked to develop their own cipher, putting the skills of their students in competition with those from a rival.

“The UK has a world-class academic base in cyber security and this tournament represents a great opportunity for existing Challenge candidates and new players to test the hard, code breaking skills and out-the-box thinking that the cyber security profession requires. We are running this as a pilot with the ambition to encourage more university departments to take part in 2013/14 as we embark on a dedicated education programme featuring university based cyber camps and a set of competitions specifically designed for students.”