A postman has been unveiled as the winner of the UK’s first Cyber Security Challenge.

Dan Summers, who currently delivers mail, but has a background in IT, beat 24 other finalists to win £37,000-worth of prizes to help kick-start a career in information security.

“This was the most intense and rewarding experience of my life,” said Summers. “I’ll be looking closely at all the opportunities that have developed as a result of my involvement with the challenge.”

The UK Cyber Security Challenge is a competition that has been designed to encourage interest in computer security and IT security jobs, and is open to people from all backgrounds. It is supported by organisations such as the Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP), the Information Assurance Advisory Council, the Cabinet Office and commercial vendors such as HP, Detica and QinetiQ.

At present, Summers is working for the Royal Mail, delivering post, but he has actually held a number of roles in IT since 2003 to 2010. These ranged from entry-level IT support, to systems officer responsible for server support, to technical lead for developing virtualisation strategies.

He was crowned Cyber Security Champion after taking part in the grand final, called The Masterclass, during which he had to demonstrate technical and business skills in a simulated corporate security scenario designed by HP and Cassidian. Prior to the final, Summers had completed an online and then a face-to-face cyber security competition.

The competitors worked in teams during the final, posing as a cyber security team hired by a company to improve their security.

Summers’ team was tasked with developing security policies and advising decision makers on training requirements, while protecting the fictional company’s network from constant and increasingly complex cyber attacks. He also had to deploy business skills to manage the needs of company employees who were involved in making important business decisions.

“We made sure the Masterclass was the most realistic and challenging test these competitors have faced so far, so it was great to see so many do so well,” said Bryan Lille, head of cyber security customer solutions centre at Cassidian.

“It highlights just how much untapped talent there is out there and how, through the challenge, we have a great new channel to discover it.” 

Summers’ prizes include an Open University course, a SANS Institute course and the GIAC information security certification exam, memberships of the Institute of the IISP and the British Computer Society, and opportunities to take exams with CREST (Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers).

“My first goal will be to look and see what opportunities there are for getting a first cyber security job,” said Summers.

Meanwhile, at the Challenge awards ceremony yesterday, security minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones confirmed £180,000 of funding from the government’s National Cyber Security Programme for the next Challenge, which will open for registration on 28 March 2011.

She also said that the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA) will continue to sponsor the initiative, which will comprise more competitions, covering a broader range of information security topics.

“My own particular challenge to the current sponsors and potential new sponsors is to collectively find the remaining funds required in order that we can all reap the benefits of inspiring another crop of talented individuals to be sat here with us this time next year,” Baroness Neville-Jones said at the ceremony.

More than 4,000 registered to take part in the 2010 Challenge, which included three competitions, namely the SANS and Sophos Treasure Hunt, the QinetiQ Network Defence competition and the US Department for Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) Digital Forensic Challenge.