A team of undergraduates from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will be sent to the US Black Hat Security conference in July courtesy of Telstra after proving their mettle in a cyberdefence challenge.
The challenge was issued by Telstra, the Australian Government and universities last month to test the skills of undergraduates in a theoretical cyberdefence scenario.
The challenge ran for 24 hours, with teams examining a fictitious Australian business for vulnerabilities. Teams scored points for successfully completing a set number of tasks and were further evaluated by their written submissions on how the business could mitigate risks and improve its security.
There were 15 teams of undergraduates from a variety of Australian universities competing, but ultimately it was a group from UNSW that took the top prize — a trip to the 2012 Black Hat Security conference in Las Vegas, US, in July.
It is considered one of the most high profile events in the information security industry, attracting some of the biggest names in the field from both sides of the hacking fence. It is not unusual for attendees to pay for everything in cash due to a history of ATMs near the venue being hacked, and some attendees go as far to purchase "disposable" notebooks, which they destroy after the event in the belief that the notebooks have probably been compromised.
The challenge also awarded undergraduates from Edith Cowan University, who came in second place. Each member of the team received an Apple iPad, while a team from Australian National University placed third and received 4G-enabled smartphones from Telstra.
"The participants found the challenge rewarding and exciting; I'm hoping that for many of them it's ignited a passion for this field and is now something that they will seriously consider as a career option," said Telstra chief information security officer Glenn Chisholm.
"There's no doubt that as Australia becomes more technology driven, expert security skills will be very important in the industry to continue to protect our online environments from cybercrime such as data theft."