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Formula for success: Top schoolgirl codebreakers rewarded with trip to home of McLaren racing

High-performing girls in the UK’s flagship cyber contest for schools rewarded with visit to McLaren Technology Centre

  • Pupils will hear from inspirational speakers at the CyberFirst Girls Competition prize event hosted by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre today (Wednesday)
  • Nationwide contest will return next month to encourage more girls to consider pursuing cyber careers

Schoolgirls who triumphed over local rivals to reach the final of a nationwide cyber security contest will take a victory lap today (Wednesday) with a special event at the home of McLaren Racing.

High-performing pupils from around the country are being rewarded with a visit to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, to celebrate their success in the CyberFirst Girls Competition, run by the National Cyber Security Centre – a part of GCHQ.

Around 60 finalists from the 2020 and 2021 contests are set to attend the event, which recognises the girls’ achievement in seeing off thousands of challengers by putting their cyber skills to the test in a series of puzzles involving logic, networking and cryptography.

The prize event will give the girls a real insight into the world of technology and the careers available in cyber security. They will hear from inspirational industry speakers, take part in a codebreaking relay challenge and go on a scavenger hunt tour of the McLaren site.

Since 2017, more than 43,000 pupils have taken part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition, which aims to encourage more girls aged 12 to 13 to pursue a career in cyber security. And next month, applications for the 2022 contest will open for more teams to show their cyber skills.

Nicola Hudson, NCSC Director of Policy and Communications, said:

“It’s wonderful to be able to reward the finalists of recent CyberFirst Girls Competitions by bringing them to the McLaren Technology Centre.

“Reaching the final is a massive achievement and I hope this visit and hearing from some inspirational speakers will encourage the girls to further pursue their interests in this exciting industry.

“Registration opens in the coming weeks for the 2022 contest and we would strongly advise more schools to sign up.”

Girls attending the event will come from around the UK, having taken part in either the 2020 or 2021 competition. To reach the final, the teams had to be the top performers at local contests held in each of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and five English regions.

The event has been facilitated by CyberFirst member organisation Darktrace, which is also the official cyber security partner of McLaren Racing.

The girls will be welcomed by NCSC Director of Policy and Communications Nicola Hudson and Darktrace Chief Executive Poppy Gustafsson.

Toby Lewis, Head of Threat Analysis at Darktrace said:

“As a member organisation of CyberFirst, Darktrace is delighted to be part of this event celebrating the success of the teams who have worked hard and achieved success in one of UK’s most innovative cyber programs for young people.”

“Cyber security, done correctly, has the power to be a fundamental enabler for businesses and is critical in keeping society running – it is an incredibly exciting sector to be part of and we are proud to support the development of cyber skills in the next generation.”

The CyberFirst Girls Competition opens annually to students who identify as female in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland, and Year 9 in Northern Ireland, and applications for the 2022 contest will be opening on Monday 18 October.

Girls aged 12 to 13 are encouraged to enter the contest in teams of up to four, where they will tackle fun and challenging puzzles relating to cyber security in a bid to score the most points and be crowned CyberFirst champions.

More information can be found on the NCSC website, where there are also details about the full range of CyberFirst opportunities available aimed at helping young people develop cyber skills and pursue their interests in the field.

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