Cyber 9/12: Meet the winners

March 26, 2018

L to R: Amy Ertan (PPE), Angela Heeler (Computer Science and Business), Lydia Garms (Cryptography) and Georgia Crossland (Psychology)

We were ‘Team CDT’, so named as we are members of the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Cyber Security at Royal Holloway, University of London. This Centre was established in 2013 to produce cohorts of highly-trained researchers with a broad understanding of cyber security. Team CDT for Cyber 9/12 in 2018 consisted of one 3rd year and three 1st years with backgrounds in small-medium business and IT management, cryptography, Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) and Psychology.

Four different members of CDT formed a team for the Geneva 9/12 competition last year and we heard great stories about their experience. This was one of our reasons for entering. We also wanted to see how our different interdisciplinary approaches might work in harmony to create policy, and were pleasantly surprised with the outcome!

The scenario for the recent competition consisted of a cyber-attack on a European airport, manipulation of UK aviation financial markets and two emerging botnets. This diverse scenario worked to our interdisciplinary advantage.  The competition required practical skills such as public speaking and team work, as well as working under extreme pressure to deliver informed, proportional and effective responses.

Over the course of the contest, we changed our approach depending on the demands of each task and to meet the time constraints. In the earlier rounds, we were able to review and discuss things as a group. In the later rounds, we often had to delegate tasks to an individual or couple, depending on their skills. For example, Lydia and Angela handled the more technical points (with backgrounds in cryptography vs computer science, business and policing respectively). Amy handled the economic and political aspects (she has a background in threat intelligence and international relations), while Georgia took the lead on political aspects and public communication, using her psychology background to inform and evidence policy recommendations.

The competition highlighted the fact that there is real support for multi-disciplinary approaches to cyber security and that each of our areas are appreciated, both by policy makers and those in industry. We also realised that there are diverse roles available, with cyber security experts becoming an increasing priority for both industry and policy.

A few of us are now considering careers in policy making, and certainly hope to enter a team next year. Georgia and Amy are also currently working on a Human Factors in Cyber Security report with the Cabinet Office, hoping to bridge some gaps between research and policy.

We were delighted to be announced as the winners after a tough contest! We were also proud to represent women in the cyber security field, despite the fact that having an all-female team was down to chance – the team was built primarily to ensure a diversity of backgrounds. A number of competitors approached us after the event to voice their appreciation of this representation and we were proud to represent women, hopefully reminding people that the gender disparity in cyber security needs to be tackled.

Outreach and encouraging youngsters into cyber security is something we all take an interest in, so the Cyber 9/12 win complemented our existing efforts. Lydia runs the ‘Women in Security / Mathematics’ network at Royal Holloway and Amy organises wellbeing and social activities for the Information Security department. Lydia and Angela also contribute to secondary school outreach programmes to widen general participation in cyber security subjects.

On a personal level, we all felt the contest had challenged us and we had the valuable opportunity to learn from other disciplines, developing a context where one approach might be preferable to another. The pressures within the competition meant overall competitors develop skills to manage effective teamwork and conflict management, as well as presentation and wider evaluative skills. These will be valuable to us all as we complete our studies and move on into the world.

Overall, we had a great time and the competition taught us a great deal, particularly to concentrate on our strengths and overcome our differences. We’re grateful to Atlantic Council and all the sponsors who made the event possible and look forward to hopefully taking part again next year!

Nominet sponsored Cyber 9/12 UK as part of our commitment to public benefit, with a focus on diversity and inclusivity within cyber security.