Photo L-R: (Thara Jose, Fergus Cutting, Josh Dixon, Elana Fraser)
The UEA student team, UEAnonymous, made it through to the finals of the Cyber 9/12 Strategy challenge, a competition that brings together students from across the country to help foster the cyber security leaders of the future, held on Tuesday 21 February at BT Tower, London.
Comprised of Thara Jose, Fergus Cutting, Elana Fraser and Josh Dixon – students from the School of Computing Sciences (CMP) – the group was selected for the in-person finals as one of just 17 teams, out of more than 120 applicants.
The Cyber 9/12 competition is run by the Atlantic Council, an American think tank, and places students at the centre of an emerging security threat as expert advisors to the Prime Minister. The challenge aims to generate effective teamwork, communication skills, and critical thinking and analysis – all complementary, yet often overlooked, skill sets that are recognised as essential across all cyber security professions and industries.
In the finals, the UEAnonymous team worked together to compete against teams from the University of Oxford, University College London (UCL) and more. As part of this challenge, the four students presented their suggestions to panels of judges made up of leading experts in the field from industry and government, including members of the National Cyber Security Centre and executives from companies like BAE Systems and BT.
Dr Oli Buckley, Associate Professor in Cyber Security from CMP, said:
“The UEAnonymous team from CMP did brilliantly to reach the finals, where they competed against teams from Oxford, UCL and more.
“The competition is an amazing experience for the students involved, as it gives them a chance to think about cyber security in a new way, while also putting them in front of high-ranking members of the wider community. There’s also a wealth of opportunities for networking, mentoring and more as part of the competition – and hopefully next year, UEA can maintain their appearances in the finals.”
When asked about the experience, CMP student Fergus Cutting said:
“Cyber 9/12 was a truly unforgettable experience. From being 34 floors above London in the BT tower, to the array of senior people from all over the public and private sector, there was a massive sense of importance and prestige from the moment we arrived.
“Working on such a difficult and realistic problem was a real challenge and required us to research how the UK combats cyber threat, what mitigations are in place, and what further mitigations will be needed in the future – all of which are invaluable skills for us further in life. On top of this, the career advice and insight provided by the mentors and judges present will be crucial to navigating the job market in the future.
“Cyber 9/12 was a real challenge and tested all four of us to our limits, but it was also so much fun and something I'd do again in a heartbeat. If I was to offer any advice for anyone looking to compete in future years, the key to doing well in Cyber 9/12 is making sure your team has a diverse skillset.”
CMP student Elana Fraser added:
“Cyber 9/12 is an experience that I won’t ever forget. From the moment we began the application process, this competition was pushing us to our limits and really helped to unlock our full potential as a team. This competition helped me to realise strengths in myself which I was not aware of before, and helped me in learning how to utilise and market these strengths, whether that be in applying for jobs or networking with professionals.
“As a team we are all proud of our strength and performance in this event, and how we pushed past the nerves, the lack of sleep and supported each other brilliantly. I would love to go back in future years, whether this be as a returning contestant or as a volunteer at the event; the energy and talent in the room was unmatchable to anything I have experienced before, and as soon as it was over I wanted to start it all over again. I would 100% recommend this experience as it was truly one of a lifetime.”