A 26 year-old British software developer has been ranked as the best civilian in the 2012 DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge, an unusually demanding round of the Cyber Security Challenge hosted by the US Department of Defense Cyber Crime Centre (DC3).

Chris Doman from Essex came second to a team of professionals from Northrop Grumman in the December event, but beat competition from 2,000 other competitors from 53 countries, making him the best non-pro in the world.

Doing well in the event meant conquering a series of scenario-based challenges, including communication and information recovery, data hiding, metadata hashing and file signatures.

"I looked through all 34 challenges and wrote a plan of how to do them all and how long it would take. It's all certainly possible to solve but it's not easy and you have to think carefully about the time required for each challenge," said Doman.

The Cyber Security Challenge has certainly reignited my love for cyber security and problem solving. I did better than I expected, and it's given me a boost to start applying for work in this field," he added.

Doman set up his own company, Ignite Research, in 2009, but had turned away from his interest in security after leaving school, he said.

His prize from the DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge is free admittance to one of training firm 7Safe's university-accredited ethical hacking courses.

He plans to take part in the next UK Cyber Security Challenge this month, the Sophos Malware Hunt, which will pit contestants against "the nastiest creations of both cyber-criminal gangs and nation states."

Two other UK non-security amateurs also finished in the top 12, IT professional Matt Bartlett and Durham University student Chris Moore. Both will participate in the Sophos Malware Hunt.