The 2014 Cyber Challenge starts tomorrow and it’s a great starting point for students interested in pursuing a career in cyber security.

I should know, I work in network security for Telstra’s Security Operations Team. But this time last year my colleagues and I from Swinburne University were busy preparing for the 2013 Cyber Challenge.

A group of my university friends had noticed an invitation to attend an information session run by the Swinburne Cyber Security Club. We went along and after hearing about the 2013 Cyber Challenge we decided to enter a team.

I don’t think any of us realised what we were about to get ourselves into.

The Cyber Challenge is a lot of fun, but it is a tough event. It runs for 24-hours from midday to midday!

Teams are awarded points based on their ability to identify vulnerabilities in the network of a fictitious Australian business, and recommend mitigation strategies to enhance its network security.

When the clock stops, the points are added up and the winning team heads off to Las Vegas to attend the Black Hat Security Conference.

Aside from the challenge itself, there’s also the challenge of staying awake throughout the duration of the Challenge.

My approach was based on frequent trips out into the cold night air and regular snack breaks. Dry pasta and dried fruit were my favourite options, mainly because they couldn’t get stuck in the keyboard.

What’s my advice for the 55 teams who are competing in year’s Cyber Challenge?

Practice as much as possible and make sure your team has a diverse range of skills. Everyone in my team had an area of expertise (or at least we tried to) that we focused on.
This way, each team meeting we could share what we had learnt with the others, which helped grow the knowledge of the entire team.

Time management is also important. Set yourself a time limit to work on all the tasks that you can reasonably complete. This way, you won’t get absorbed and waste time on one task and then have no time to work on anything else later in the challenge.

Above all, team work. When you need a hand or a second pair of eyes, don’t be afraid to get the rest of your team involved, because at 4am it’s really easy to miss something very important.

Good luck!