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BT, UK spying centre GCHQ and the National Crime Agency (NCA) are partnering to design this year's final of the Cyber Security Challenge UK , a nationwide competition programme to bring more talented people into the cyber security profession and address a critical skills shortage.

Dr Bob Nowill, BT’s cyber director, said: “As lead sponsor and host of the Masterclass finals we see these types of initiatives as key to encouraging people to develop their cyber skills and build a career in this really interesting area of security.”

The Masterclass represents the grand finale of the latest Challenge competition programme and will see the new Cyber Security Challenge UK champion crowned. The face-to-face cyber battle will take place at a secret location in London across Friday 14 and Saturday 15 March.

It will test 42 talented cyber defenders, identified during 10 months of virtual and face-to-face battles across the UK, with a final top-secret scenario and role playing based competition, comprising technical challenges and more business-focused risk analysis and policy tasks.

Contestants will be required to demonstrate technical, interpersonal and decision making skills.

Jonathan Hoyle, GCHQ director general for government and industry cyber security, said: "The beauty of the Cyber Security Challenge is that the competitors include a real mix of self-taught talent who bring an unconventional and innovative approach to the challenges. That innovation is really important to the UK in tackling cyber threats today and in the future."

Hoyle added: “Through GCHQ's involvement I have had the enormous pleasure of presenting some of the awards and welcoming some of the Challenge winners and finalists to GCHQ, as visitors, on year-long placements and in some cases as fully-fledged members of GCHQ's cyber security mission."

With sponsor support the Challenge has handed out more than £200,000 of prizes to over 100 of the UK’s leading amateur cyber defenders, a number of which have since moved into the profession.