University teams up with National Cyber Force for first 'hackathon' event

Lancaster University teamed up with National Cyber Force to host a 'hackathon' event <i>(Image: Lancaster University)</i>
Lancaster University teamed up with National Cyber Force to host a 'hackathon' event (Image: Lancaster University)

A university in Lancashire teamed up with the government’s National Cyber Force (NCF) to deliver a ‘hackathon’ event for the cyber experts of the future.

The event, the first of its kind delivered by the NCF, saw some of the North West’s brightest young cyber talent put to the test at Lancaster University.

Held within the university’s cutting-edge computer labs on April 12, the hackathon is one of the first major initiatives held by the NCF ahead of the move to its new home at Samlesbury in 2025.

The hackathon provided a series of rapid computer engineering challenges, with participants working in teams to create new software and hardware while supported by CyberFirst alumni experts.

The activities were designed to teach participants about a range of emerging technologies, how they work, and how they can be exploited by cyber criminals.

The challenges included a tiny computer to fit inside the rim of a hat while being able to connect to the internet and communicate with other devices; learning how security cameras work and how to control and take screenshots from them; and how to approach using AI models.

In addition to the challenges, attendees heard from inspirational speakers and received insights into what it is like to work for the NCF as well as the rewarding range of cyber careers on offer to them.

Support for the hackathon was also provided by the Ministry of Defence’s Cyber Specialist Unit, part of the Joint Cyber Reserve Force, who helped to develop the challenges and facilitate the day.

Air vice-marshal Tim Neal-Hopes, commander of the National Cyber Force, said: “NCF is committed to nurturing the interests of young people, particularly in the realms of digital and STEM subjects.

“Our first hackathon, supported by Lancaster University, forms part of a range of activities we are sponsoring in the North West. These are aimed at higher and further education students as well as graduates, to give them an insight into real-world challenges and fulfilling career opportunities, and support employability and digital skills development.

“We look forward to building on our engagement activity in the county in the run-up to 2025 and our arrival in Samlesbury.”

Daniel Prince, professor in Cyber Security at Lancaster University, said: “This inaugural hackathon is a brilliant experience for highly talented and motivated aspiring cyber experts from our region who want to get an insight into working for the National Cyber Force.

“The hackathon challenges provide relevant experience of emerging and developing technologies and threats that cyber experts are grappling with in the real world.

“It is great to work alongside the National Cyber Force to help develop the skills pipeline of young cyber professionals that will be key to ensure the future security of the UK.

“Cyber skills are in high demand and it’s wonderful to see, through this event and other activities Lancaster University is engaged in, that there are so many talented people from the North West developing their skills and exploring cyber as a career.”