Sophos challenges UK public to crack a virtual terrorist hard drive and break into CCTV systems in new Cyber Security Challenge competition

August 04, 2014 Sophos Press Release

OXFORD, UK – June 6, 2014 – Sophos is calling on members of the UK public to turn sleuth and to investigate confiscated crime scene computer systems belonging to a mysterious cyber terrorist group as part of the latest Cyber Security Challenge competition. Assignment Flag Drive is the second competition in the 2014/15 programme of online and face-to-face cyber battles, aimed at uncovering the best UK amateur security talent.

Cyber Security Challenge highlights

  • Latest competition in the 2014/15 Challenge sees global cyber security provider call on the UK public to investigate an encrypted hard drive seized from the Challenge's new cyber terrorism nemesis – the Flag Day Associates
  • Candidates will have to use the information to gain access to Internet of Things devices and learn more about their plans
  • Register to test your skills and help protect the UK

This latest programme of Challenge competitions sees the introduction of a new nemesis - The Flag Day Associates - the Challenge's first recurring characters who will feature prominently in a gripping storyline throughout this year’s competition, culminating at the 2015 Masterclass next March. The fictitious Flag Day Associates first appeared at the end of last year’s Masterclass' awards ceremony in March this year, via a threat video featuring three masked individuals warning of a future cyber attack on the UK. The video was uploaded to YouTube and further 'secret' details embedded within revealed a possible date of the cyber attack, and a reference to the next solar eclipse observable from the UK.

Last month, over 1000 amateur cyber defenders signed up to help decipher the first clue in the investigation of the Flags - a suspicious communication email identified by the National Crime Agency and described as potentially having been sent between members of the group.

To mark the launch of Assignment: Flag Drive, the Challenge have revealed that the intercepted email has been traced to an abandoned warehouse in the English countryside. When the authorities arrived any previous occupants had vacated, taking all their equipment with them. Only an encrypted hard drive was left behind.

In their brand new online competition founding Challenge sponsors, Sophos, are calling on the UK public to use all their technical skills and curiosity to break into the captured system and report on what new information they can ascertain.

“This competition is going to be a lot of fun and include many of the key skills security professionals need in the workplace," explains James Lyne, Global Head of Security Research at Sophos. "It will have forensic and offensive aspects to it and be accessible to all levels. Best of all is part of the game involves a collection of interesting Internet of Things devices. I’m looking forward to seeing the creative approaches the players take to overcoming the Associates”

"Sophos has been a great supporter of the Challenge since its first year, and always provide exciting competitions that bring candidates face-to-face with realistic scenarios and situations that the industry is tackling today," says Challenge CEO Stephanie Daman. "We await to see what our candidates can learn about the Flag Day Associates from the mysterious drive left behind.”

The highest ranked entrants from the Sophos competition will automatically qualify for the first of a series of reconnaissance meet ups as part of Operation Flag Day. Here, the most impressive candidates from the virtual assignments will be asked to report for duty in person at secret locations around the UK to carry out investigations face-to-face in teams. As well as uncovering vital clues on the objectives and identities of the Flag Day Associates, these will determine the final line up of online defenders to take on the Flag Day Associates at the Masterclass final next year.

About the Cyber Security Challenge UK

Cyber Security Challenge UK runs a series of national inspirational competitions aimed at attracting talented people into the profession and informing them about cyber security careers and learning opportunities. Now in its fourth year it is running an ambitious programme of competitions and activities designed to spread the word about why cyber security is such a fulfilling and varied career and help talented people get their first cyber security jobs. It is sponsored by some of the UK’s most prestigious public, private and academic organisations and is making a notable difference to the career prospects of those with the talents and aptitude to become cyber security professionals.