Ethical hacking firm Secarma is staging a hair-raising student hackathon aimed at bridging the skills gap in the cyber security industry.

In the first event of its kind in the North West, 50 computer science students from Edge Hill University will take part in a ‘real-life’ hacking challenge at UKFast Campus in Manchester. 

The challenge, which will take place over the course of five hours on Tuesday 31st October, simulates the work carried out on a daily basis by penetration testers at Secarma.

Ten teams will compete against each other. Their goal is to find vulnerabilities in a replica of a real-life business IT environment, with points awarded for identifying weaknesses and providing recommendations for fixing the problem. 

“Cyber attacks like this year’s WannaCry ransomware attacks, which crippled the NHS, are becoming more frequent and more serious,” said Paul Mason, training and development manager at Secarma.

“This hackathon is a bit of fun for Halloween but real cyber attacks are extremely frightening. 

“We need to recruit more white-hat hackers to stay one step ahead of the criminals. By running an event like this we want to encourage more talent to take up a career in the cyber security industry.”

The exercise is formulated and organised by some of the world’s top ethical hackers and provides a window into the skills required to join the cyber security industry.

More cyber experts are needed to combat a sharp rise in data breaches, computer viruses and ransomware.  Government statistics reveal almost half (46 per cent) of UK businesses suffered a cyber attack in 2016.

Secarma’s ultimate aim is to extend the hackathon to different universities and eventually establish a national inter-university challenge. 

Secarma is owned by hosting firm UKFast. Founder and CEO Lawrence Jones said: “It’s exciting to be hosting an event of this kind, inspiring young people to take up a career in tech and cybersecurity.  

“Barely a day goes by without a cyber-attack making headlines and the risks continue to grow. 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for students to understand what a career in penetration testing involves alongside some of the best talent in the world.”