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10 February, 2016 - 13:34 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge2Cambridge hackathon fulfil’s Obama’s dream

Dr Frank Stajano, who leads the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research at the University of Cambridge

Student teams from the two Cambridges – in the UK and Massachusetts – are set to fulfil the vision of President Obama and David Cameron to get the best young transatlantic brains tackling cyber security problems.

Young tech turks from MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the University of Cambridge will collaborate in a special multi-day hackathon at MIT dubbed Cambridge 2 Cambridge (C2C) on March 4 and 5.

The hackathon was first announced by Barack Obama and the UK PM last year a part of a series of US/UK initiatives aimed at harnessing the nations’ collective brainpower to combat global cyber attacks.

The two-part competition features a 24-hour ‘Capture the Flag’-style hackathon with blended student teams from MIT CSAIL and Cambridge, as well as a ‘Shark Tank’-style business plan competition in which alumni and student-led companies pitch their technologies to a panel of industry judges. Winning teams will be awarded cash prizes totalling over $70,000.

“We’re very excited to partner with the University of Cambridge on this initiative, which we hope will be the first of many efforts to foster more international collaboration on cyber security,” says Howard Shrobe, the MIT CSAIL principal research scientist who heads up the lab’s Cybersecurity@CSAIL initiative.

We think it’s vital to create opportunities for students to actively apply their knowledge to real-world problems and C2C enables just those sorts of hands-on experiences.” Dr Frank Stajano (pictured above), who leads the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research at the University of Cambridge, added: “We are thrilled to team up with our distinguished colleagues at MIT to offer our students the chance to learn and practice vital cyber security skills.

“Our students have responded with great enthusiasm and there has been fierce competition during the pre-selections to get into the set of finalists that will fly to MIT in March.

“We also envisage that some of the cyber security training material we developed for C2C will in due course become practical lab sessions in our undergraduate computer science curriculum.”

Hackathon participants will develop and apply attacks and defences for ongoing challenges in cyber security. They will compete in a graduated set of exercises touching on such topics as web security, reverse engineering, cryptography and forensics.

Start-up teams will employ a range of technical and business skills beyond pure coding, such as pitching to venture capitalists, analysing the policy implications of their technologies and even speaking to the press in real-world simulations.

“Initiatives such as C2C will help organisations recruit and nurture talent to address cyber skills gaps in Western democracies,” says BT Security CEO Mark Hughes.

“Training a new generation of cyber security experts is of vital importance to help protect governments and businesses in today’s interconnected world. As the largest cyber security service provider in the UK, we are very proud to support this great example of international cooperation among students and to be able to work with them for a safer world.”

More details for the event can be found on the C2C website ( MIT CSAIL will also be simulcasting its proceedings via the live-streaming app Twitch.

C2C is being supported by the telecommunications company BT as its gold sponsor. Microsoft is funding the hackathon cash prizes.

Software security company ForAllSecure created the hackathon competition. Other event sponsors include Cisco Systems, Inc., FreshCognate, ThreatStream, Rapid7 and Cybersecurity@CSAIL members Akamai, BAE Systems, BBVA, BP, Boeing, Raytheon and Visa.

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