Locating bugs, defeating viruses, computer forensics and battling online crime – careers in cyber security are fast-paced, exciting and varied

With attacks on the rise and malicious hacking of networks and websites rarely out of the news, the need for talent to fight the ‘invisible threat’ is critical and candidates are in high demand.

Nine out of ten IT employers have reported difficulty in recruiting for cyber security positions and 60% have indicated that demand is to increase over the next five years. Military personnel have exactly the skills cyber employers are looking for – problem solving, logical thinking and a thirst for knowledge – and the Cyber Security Challenge UK is an unparalleled opportunity for people with a military background to hone and test their skills and learn more about the rewarding and lucrative careers in the sector.

“Safeguarding valuable information online is a major priority for the UK’s economy and for our society” said Stephanie Daman, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK. “The cyber security sector is crying out for more people – and this is where we come in.”

The Cyber Security Challenge UK is a series of online and face-to-face competitions. Backed by over 75 sponsors from across government, business and academia – including the Cabinet Office and GCHQ – the Challenge games are designed by top industry experts – but they’re not just for fun. Now in its fourth year, the Challenge has grown to represent the variety of skills currently demanded and the competitions give a real taste of working in the sector, putting candidates in the shoes of security managers dealing with data theft and security breaches.

Prizes include professional training courses and internships and also places at face-to-face competitions where competitors meet prospective employers. There’s real opportunity to develop a career in cyber security through the games and a number of contestants have gone on to secure work with the Cyber Security Challenge sponsors and IT businesses.

Nigel Harrison retired from the Army in 2012 after a 36 year a career in the Royal Signals. His last posting was a three-year secondment to the Cabinet Office where he helped to shape the UK’s Cyber Security Strategy. He currently runs the Royal Signals Institution based in Blandford Camp, Dorset, and has seen how a military background can lead to success in cyber security jobs.

"There are already real staff shortages in the business and many companies are actively recruiting new staff with the right skills and aptitude to do well in the profession. A significant proportion of those working in this sector have a military background – the security mindset, work ethic and team-working skills of those leaving the services count for a great deal when it comes to recruiting new staff. Service leavers should actively consider a second career in cyber security – those with the right aptitude are in great demand."

The Cyber Security Challenge recently ran a military-style cyber camp at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham, where the UK’s top amateurs learned from some of the country’s largest cyber security businesses, met existing industry professionals and developed their skills. The contestants worked through high level governance and planning exercises with PwC and the Information Security Forum; preformed ‘technical sweeps’ where they looked for bugs and listening devices with C3IA; and were also put through their paces by Encription who presented a fake online banking website with a host of vulnerabilities to identify and fix.

Candidates had to provide support to a friendly administration’s IT systems to assure the confidentiality and integrity of their information. The weekend culminated in an exhilarating live cyber battle using the SANS Netwars platform.

There are many other competitions that run throughout the year, opportunities to meet employers and events where you can learn about the exciting variety of opportunities in the sector. To test your skills and learn more, register here