Thousands of girls take on codebreaking puzzles in bid to win UK cyber security crown

12 Feb 2021 12:02 PM

The 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition saw over 6,500 students take part, teams now go through to the online semi-finals in March.

Girls take part in the Cardiff final of the CyberFirst Girls Competition

THOUSANDS of girls across the country stepped forward to demonstrate their digital skills and codebreaking prowess in the UK’s flagship cyber security contest this year.

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February 2021), the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – revealed more than 6,500 girls nationwide entered the 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition.

More than 600 schools signed up teams for the first round of the contest, held virtually due to the pandemic, giving girls aged 12 to 13 the chance to tackle fun and challenging puzzles in a bid to win the title of UK cyber security champions.

The highest scoring teams from the first round will next take on local rivals in semi-finals for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and English regions. The puzzles, covering cryptography, logic and networking, will be set by the NCSC with input from CyberFirst industry partners.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition is aimed at girls starting to think about what subjects to take for GCSE and its ambition is to inspire them to consider a career in cyber security – an industry where women are still under-represented.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, yesterday said:

“On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’re pleased to say that thousands of girls came forward to compete in this year’s CyberFirst Girls Competition and we congratulate the top teams which now go forward into the semi-finals.

“These girls have opened the door to what could one day be an exciting and rewarding career, where more female representation is undoubtedly needed.

“We owe a special thanks to teachers who encouraged pupils to take up this fun opportunity to engage with – and hopefully be inspired by – cyber security.”

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman, yesterday said:

“It is marvellous to see so many girls showing an interest in cyber security and well done to those who made it to the next round.

“The cyber security industry needs talented people and I hope everyone who took part had fun and felt inspired to consider an exciting career cracking codes, disrupting cyber attacks and protecting our online spaces.”

Since launching in 2017, more than 37,000 girls have taken part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition.

This year’s online semi-final rounds will take place simultaneously on Thursday 19 March in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and five English regions: the North of England, Central England, the South West, the South East and London.

The winners of these events will earn their place at the Grand Final in April, where the UK champions will be crowned.

More information about the competition can be found on the NCSC's website.