Mar 26 2021

Minerva Task Force team are made up of four students at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security, and recently won the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. We recently caught up with the team to congratulation them on their win and ask more about what the competition involved.

1. Can you tell us about yourselves and what you study at Royal Holloway?

We are all first year students at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security, but come from completely different backgrounds. Kyra is a computer science graduate, interested in applying machine learning and big data methods to cyber security problems. Emma is a Master’s level mathematician with an interest in cryptography and the wider societal issues around cyber security. Stephanie is an economist with experience in the public sector, and founder of SEIDEA, a social enterprise focused on supporting BME women in cyber security. She is interested in human factors of cyber security within emerging economies. Sofia is a War Studies graduate, who recently completed a Master’s degree in International Security. She is interested in the intersection of strategy, geopolitics, and cyber security.

2. Congratulations on your recent win of the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge, what did the challenge involve?

The challenge presented us with a scenario that required us to propose policy options to judges playing the role of the Prime Minister’s office. Keeping in theme with the pandemic, the scenario centred around cyber threats to the vaccine supply chain, ICU oxygen distribution systems,and widespread disinformation campaigns. For each round we needed to prepare a situation assessment based on the intelligence packs we received, and propose policy options to prepare and respond to any emerging threats. The challenge is designed to understand the technical, societal and strategic implications of cyber security and conflict.

3. Did it make a difference that the challenge was virtual?

It would have been nice to get to meet the other contestants and the judges in person, but the fact that it was virtual did not detract from the overall experience. For instance, the competition normally has a number of talks and workshops on offer for contestants throughout the day when they are not briefing the judges. This year, by being virtual, we were able to listen to various speakers from across the world. What we also found was that despite having to work virtually together, we were still able to get to know each other better. We also received a goodybag in the post so we didn’t miss out on any freebies either!

4. How did you come up with the team name ‘MinervaTask Force’?

Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare. Given our multidisciplinary shared knowledge and that we were going to be taking part in a strategic challenge, we thought the name worked well. We are also an all female team, and so the name of a Roman goddess seemed fitting.

5. What do you enjoy most about studying/researching at Royal Holloway?

The multidisciplinarity provided and encouraged at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security is something that we really appreciateand enjoy. It forces us to step out of our comfort zone, allows us to communicate better with people outside of our academic backgrounds, and makes us better researchers.

6. How do each of you like to spend your free time currently?

Steph: I like to listen to music that keeps my soul alive and forces my feet to dance, which tend to be Afrobeat, Jazz, K-pop and Latin. In my spare time, I discuss all things privacy, tech and Nigerian history related on the clubhouse app.

Kyra: When I’m not coding I am listening to music or learning to play the guitar. I also normally would be attending classes in Tae-Kwon-Do or Judo but the pandemic has put a stop to that so instead I regularly go on runs to de-stress.

Emma: I am a really keen dancer and try to get involved in any opportunity to take classes, perform and choreograph.

Sofia: Discovering new music, listening to podcasts, watching old movies and doing long crochet scarfs. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would be dancing salsa more regularly.