Over 50 of our schoolgirls from years 8 – 10 came together to tackle some major cyber security challenges and were later visited by GCHQ and the NCSC personally!
The GCHQ competition invited teenage girls from across the country to put their tech skills to the test and battle against one another. It was setup as part of GCHQ’s newly-founded National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in, it says, “an important step to knock down the barriers preventing women from joining the fight against online crime.” Statistics show that only 10 percent of the global workforce in cyber security and computer science are female; something that GCHQ and the NCSC are eager to help change and encourage more women to consider a career that they might not yet realise they could excel in!
The girls were mentored and supported throughout the week by Mr Prior, Assistant Head of Computing and ICT. Mr Prior’s university degree was based on cyber security so the competition had peaked his interest to get Bournside involved when he first saw it announced. The girls were split into teams of four and were given various challenges to complete, including exploitation problems, code cracking and finding hidden statements within an arrangement of 1’s and 0’s. The girls did all of this in their own time including breaks, lunch times and after school with Mr Prior to complete the tasks, with some tasks having their own time limit! One girl commented “It was a very different experience for me but it has really made me want to consider it as a career now – I really enjoyed it!” while another added “It made me realise that I was more intelligent than I thought I was with computing.”
Mr Burton, amazed by their achievement, congratulated the girls for their tremendous effort. Mr Prior added “You were all superb and I was very proud and enjoyed working with you all. You managed to get through so much and there were some challenges that even I struggled with! You should all be very proud of yourselves.”
Unfortunately, our girls didn’t make it to the Top 10 to attend the grand final but this wasn’t game over for them. GCHQ and the NCSC specifically picked our school and the girls involved to help trial and pilot the tasks and challenges that would later be used for the competition’s grand final held in London. The girls were personally visited by the security centre’s staff and were given insightful talks and advice and were then set to work with even more complex tasks such as security exploitations and message decoding. While we were able to photograph some of this in action, due to the highly sensitive nature of the work and to conform with the confidentiality, we were unable to photograph the GCHQ and NCSC staff.