18 UK universities to do battle at Inter-ACE cyber security challenge

Teams from 18 universities across the UK will lock horns next month at the Inter-ACE cyber security challenge, hosted by the University of Cambridge.


Now in its third year, the competition will see over 130 students from 34 teams face more than 20 different tests of their cyber skills. The event, which takes place on March 16-17, is supported by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and is designed to attract the brightest young talent to the cyber security sector.

“Protecting IT and infrastructure means understanding how it can be attacked,” said Inter-ACE founder and Cambridge Professor Frank Stajano. “The head of the National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, is absolutely right in that a major cyber-attack on the UK is a now matter of ‘when, not if’ and we must recognise that the UK faces an urgent skills shortage.”

“Inter-ACE gives future cyber security professionals the opportunity to test their skills against the best and meet others in their field and future employers. This is about engaging with the next generation of cyber security talent, and raising awareness of this vital, interesting and exciting career choice.”

Inter-ACE will simulate a number of scenarios, including working to prevent a cyber-attack on the infrastructure of a fictional city and the results of a successful tap on an undersea data cable. Competitors will develop and hone penetrative testing skills, including the binary reverse engineering of malware, breaking into a web application such as an online payment system, decoding secure communications and piecing together intercepted data.


The teams will compete for cash prizes of £10,000, with the top representatives going on to represent the UK against the US in the Cambridge2Cambridge cyber security battle.

“The Inter-ACE competition is a fantastic way to encourage bright young minds to hone their cyber knowledge further and meet like-minded people,” said Chris Ensor, deputy director for Skills and Growth at the NCSC.

“The cyber threat is growing, and so making sure that young people have the cyber security skills to help protect us has never been more important. We at the NCSC hope the entrants will be inspired – and can perhaps inspire others – into starting a thrilling career defending the UK and helping make it the safest place to live and work online.”