Girls from schools across the north of England, including Scarborough, will pit their cyber skills against each other today (Saturday 8th February), in an attempt to be crowned the country’s top codebreakers.
Girls aged 12 and 13 from the top 28 qualifying schools will take to their laptops, to solve a series of online codebreaking challenges set by industry and the NCSC, during the north of England final of the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberFirst Girls Competition.
It is the first time a northern England only contest has been held thanks to the competition’s new format, which will see local contests taking place simultaneously throughout the UK.
Almost 12,000 girls have taken part in this year’s competition and the top 10 teams from the contests around the UK – including the champions of northern England – will face off in a Grand Final in Wales in March.
The CyberFirst Girls Competition was launched four years ago by the NCSC – a part of GCHQ – with the aim of boosting interest in cyber security among females, who are currently under-represented in the industry.
In previous years an opening online round has been followed by a national final, but this year a round of finals across the Home Nations and English regions has been introduced allowing schools to compete to become local champions and earn a place in the grand final.
The contests will begin at 11am at 18 venues across the UK, with northern England’s events being hosted at venues in Manchester, Leeds, Scarborough, and Workington. Teams of up to four girls will take on the challenges, with the winners due to be announced after 3pm.
NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, Chris Ensor, said:
“It’s great to see girls from all corners of the UK putting their computing and cyber security skills to the test, and I wish them all the best of luck in this new round of the competition.
Whether they progress to the final or not, hopefully many of the girls will be inspired to find out more about cyber security and pursue their interest in this exciting field.”
The new country and English regional format of the CyberFirst Girls Competition is designed to help the NCSC unearth talent and spark interest in cyber among girls from even more parts of the country than previously.
The competition was launched by the NCSC in 2017, and tests skills on topics ranging from logic and cryptography to networking and online safety.
In the first four years of the competition 36,000 girls have taken part, and of last year’s entrants 98% said they would like to learn more about cyber security.
The competition is open to girls in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland and Year 9 in Northern Ireland. The first winners were Lancaster Girls Grammar School in 2017, followed by The Piggott School, Berkshire, in 2018 and the Royal Masonic School for Girls, Hertfordshire last year.
Three-times finalists The Tiffin Girls’ School in Kingston-upon-Thames, South West London, last month spoke to NATO and world leaders at a Downing Street reception about the competition. In a subsequent blog, the girls described the event as a “privilege” and a “great experience”.
For girls looking to pursue their interest in cyber, the NCSC is offering a free CyberFirst Girls Competition Development Day – bookings will be available from 10th Feb via www.ncsc.gov.uk/new-talent.