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Opening UK cyber-security challenge cracked

Prelude puzzle unpicked

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Enthusiasts claim to have already solved the first test in the Cyber Security Challenge UK hunt for would-be cyber-security experts.

The challenge, consisting of a series of online and face-to-face competitions, was launched by UK security minister Baroness Neville-Jones on Monday. It is intended to inspire talented individuals to take up the fight against cybercrime as a career, addressing the growing skills shortage in the area.

The first two official competitions include an online treasure hunt that involves identifying vulnerabilities on a test website and a network defence exercise. Other competitions in the pipeline include a digital forensics test.

To whet appetites, the Cyber Security Challenge launched a code breaking puzzle. Participants in a Facebook group claim to have solved the opening (prelude) cyber puzzle, which hinges on making sense of the binary border on the puzzle page.

More than 1,700 registered on the opening morning of the competition. Some have already solved the opening cipher, competition organisers have confirmed, in an update to the official cyber-challenge Twitter account, saying: "Those who sent cipher answers: Thx for amazing response. Lots right. Lots wrong. We will mail everyone by end week 2 confirm which they r!"

Some of the competitions will include age-graded competitions so that sixth formers and schools compete against their peers instead of university post-grads. Those that get through the first (online) phase of each competition will progress to face-to-face playoffs that will decide the winners in each competition and age group.

A total of 30 prizes are promised during the competition's overall run. Prizes include internships at net security companies, funded courses at the SANS Institute, places at the Detica Cyber Security Academy and university bursaries. The scheme has the support of private security firms, such as Sophos and QinteQ, as well as the government.

More details on the various competitions, and how to enter, can be found on the cyber-security challenge website here. ®

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