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The University of Southampton

Southampton hosts one of the country’s largest inter-university cyber security challenges

Published: 15 March 2019
Cybersecurity students
Students from across the country will face 50 cyber security challenges during HECC 2019.

The University of Southampton has hosted one of the UK’s largest inter-university cyber security competition exclusive to students.

Over 100 students descended on Southampton’s Highfield Campus to compete in the 2019 Higher Education Cyber Challenge.

The competing teams faced 50 challenges, involving everything from hacking websites to reverse engineering, in an effort to capture 'flags' worth a varying amount of points to determine the winners. At the end of the day, the team '0x434343' from Cardiff University topped the leader board followed by 'NP Compete' from the University of Cambridge in second place and Empire CTF from Imperial University in third place.

Of the Southampton teams participating, 'Sudo-nt' finished a respectable fifth out of 26 teams overall. 

The one-day competition drew students from all Universities in the country that either hold Academic Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security Research status or run a GCHQ-certified cyber degree, including eight participants from Southampton. The challenges were created by experts from a team of international experts, including industry sponsors as well as current Southampton PhD researchers, Josh Curry and Laurie Kirkcaldy, and graduate Jamie Scott. Both Josh and Laurie themselves were part of the Southampton team to place second in last year’s Inter-ACE Challenge hosted by Cambridge University.

Inter-ACE was established to help resolve the vast and growing cyber security skills gap, with an estimated shortfall of 1.8M workers worldwide by 2022. The competition aimed to inspire young tech enthusiasts into the cyber security sector, while also honing the skills of those who already have a strong aptitude for ethical hacking and helping them meet like-minded individuals and potential employers.

The Southampton event was organised and run by Sarah Martin, Collaboration Manager of the University's Cyber Security Academy, who commented: “The InterACE competition is a tremendous instrument to build a vibrant national cyber security community. Besides the technical challenge, there is value in allowing these future cyber leaders to make connections and socialise with each other. This is why it was important for us to take up the InterACE flag, and to close the event with an effervescent prize-award party"

Josh Curry added: “Southampton have really enjoyed attending the Inter-ACE cyber challenge over the last few years. With that competition not running in 2019, we wanted to continue the tradition of bringing together students in cyber security and so created HECC, the Higher Education Cyber Challenge. We hope that everyone enjoyed the challenges we have put together, and are happy to once again provide an opportunity for students to meet and network with their peers from across the UK.”

Professor Vladimiro Sassone, Director of the Southampton’s Cyber Security Academy, said: “We’re very pleased to bring the Higher Education Cyber Challenge to Southampton for the first time. The Challenge provides an excellent platform for students to perform as teams, under pressure, and is proving to be an important training ground as the future of the world’s cyber security capabilities rests on the shoulders of these students.”

Southampton is well-placed to host the HECC Challenge as the University plays a leading role in cyber security research and education through its Cyber Security Research Group where expertise and excellence in these fields are brought together.

The Group undertakes basic and applied cyber security research, providing core capabilities and leadership in support of the University’s broader security activities. The Group constitutes the core of the Academic Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security Research (recognised by National Cyber Security Centre and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) as well as the Cyber Security Academy, a partnership between University, Industry and Government, whose objectives span from research and consultancy to outreach, training and knowledge transfer.



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Competitors came from across the UK for the HECC including students from the University of Southampton.
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The DMU Hackers from DeMontfort University were amongst this year's competitors
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