What thoughts are conjured up when you hear the word ‘hacking’? Criminals stealing credit cards? Hackers meddling with elections?

You may be surprised that most hackers in the world hack for good. In fact they are instrumental to the security of every technological device and service you use, from the smartphone in your hand, to the smart TV on your wall.

Your bank, doctor, and dentist would grind to a halt without the invisible defensive hand of hackers.

Hellenistic Greek scholar Callimachus is the first attributed to the modern proverb ‘you need a thief to catch a thief’, and his words echo true more than 2000 years later.

To catch a hacker, you need a hacker.

Enter the fifth annual Cyber Security Challenge Australia, which will help launch the next generation of Australia’s hackers into careers that will ensure the defence and continued growth of our nation’s digital economy.

Today at noon, hundreds of students from universities and TAFEs across Australia will work in 79 efficient and coordinated teams of up to four players to flex their technological prowess, tearing open the digital fabric of a fictitious company before finding ways to secure it.

This 24 hour trial-by-fire, designed and sponsored by Telstra’s experts, is also supported and coordinated by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the Office of the Special Adviser on Cyber Security, Alastair MacGibbon, and eight top security-savvy technology businesses, will put these students through the paces of professional hackers.

It is a gruelling challenge and one that has seen participants hired by Telstra’s high-profile security teams. It remains a favoured ground for Telstra to secure up and coming talent.

Using the fictitious internet-of-things company we’ve named TICTOC, the students will demonstrate how to break and repair systems, how to find and defend against threats, and how to communicate their important yet high tech knowledge in simple and effective business terminology.

In the real world, these hacking feats would represent both a major security breach and the skills and knowledge to apply cutting edge defensive works.

Prizes await the winners. The top placed team will fly to Las Vegas to attend the famous DEFCON Security Conference, and other prizes across a range of categories include tickets to the Ruxcon Security Conference and Cisco Live, and a range of cool prizes such as Oculus Rift, Surface Book Core and Apple and Samsung devices.

But most importantly, come noon Thursday, these hacking students will be one step closer to joining one of the most important and vibrant sectors on the planet.

Keep watch on this exciting event, follow the scoreboard and updates at scoreboard.cyberchallenge.com.au and on Twitter @CySCAExCon using #CySCA2017 and cheer on some potential future colleagues!

The 2017 Cyber Security Challenge has ended as a roaring success.All told 310 students flexed their offensive and defensive hacking skills in front of top security companies including Telstra, and dignitaries from Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Challenge was also covered by media in interviews with Minister Dan Tehan who promoted the event and the importance of cyber security in government.

Telstra was the heavy-lifter for this year’s competition, building and maintaining the systems on which the university and Tafe students competed.

Our team provided smooth support for the national event ensuring it ran like clockwork.

Final results

The winners of the 2017 challenge were repeat performers, with the University of New South Wales taking out top spot with students from its renowned information security course. Competition was hot for second, third and fourth spots with teams from VIC, ACT and WA all represented in the final results.

1st UNSW Team One, Sydney NSW
2nd Monash Team One, Melbourne VIC
3rd Edith Cowan One, Perth WA
4th ANU Team One, Canberra ACT
5th Monash Team Three, Melbourne VIC

Some external internet users probed our competition infrastructure which was an entirely contained threat as Telstra’s security teams maintained vigil.

The winning team will now fly off to the lights of Las Vegas for the globally renowned DEF CON conference, where cars are hacked, ATM made to spit out cash, and more high profile acts of digital showmanship.

Runners up will go to the long-running Ruxcon hacking conference in Melbourne where international speakers come to talk high tech talks on security.

Others have scored cool digital devices, while all now have the considerable benefit of having competed in the country’s biggest and most respected hacking challenge.