Code breaking whizz kids from Haileybury

UK’s top teenage code breakers have battled it out in the 2015 Cyber City games

The code breaking whizz kids from Haileybury in Hertford have become the winners of the Cyber Security Challenge UK Cyber Games.

Ben Hirschfield, from the winning team, commented: “It was really good to see all of the different areas of computing and cyber security coming together. I like how there are different sponsors here so they can show you all the different jobs available in the cyber industry.”

Jon Spavin, teacher at Haileybury School added: “The nice thing about cyber as a subject is that it uses all sorts of different skill sets. You don’t just have to be a good coder, you can be good at pattern spotting, behaviour analysis or problem solving. Everyone should learn computational thinking as a starting point. Challenges like this are a great place to start.”

The High School for Girls in Gloucester took second place, with St James Senior Girls’ School in London in third place.

Seven teams of the UK’s best 13-18 year old code-breakers from schools across the country competed in the ‘I, Robot’ style cyber competition to become the ultimate young cyber security defenders.

The competition, created by industry giants and government organisations, tasked amateur sleuths with intercepting messages and infiltrate networks in order to defend the fictional ‘Cyber City’ from criminals.

The winning school team won a £500 prize from AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association) Academic Trust which will go towards bolstering technology skills in their institution, as well as a range of cyber and educational rewards.

The final, dubbed Cyber Games, took place in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, and was the culmination of months of online competitions and coding exercises, where teams designed and submitted their own ciphers, then played against each other to climb to the top of the scoreboard. The final seven were the highest scoring teams and comprise some of the most prodigious young cyber talent in the country today.

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The Cyber Games competition forms part of the Cabinet Office backed Cyber Security Challenge UK schools programme, which provides bespoke teaching resources, designed by its sponsor consortium and partners, to help address the critical cyber security skills gap by sparking interest student interest in cyber security.

The games have been created by some of the leading names in the cyber security industry including: National Grid, aeronautics specialist Airbus Group, defence giant Raytheon, national communications company BT, global IT trade association CompTIA, Birmingham City University, University of Warwick, GCHQ, the National Crime Agency and social engineering experts The Antisocial Engineer and Jenny Radcliffe Training.

Jason Stanton, Schools Programme Manager at the Cyber Security Challenge UK said: “There is a critical cyber security skills gap in the UK and in order to address this once and for all, we need to spark an interest in cyber security as a career at a young age. We work with our sponsor community to design fun, practical and realistic challenges that teach the core skills in an exciting way and can be delivered by any school in the country. Our aim is for the pupils to leave today feeling inspired and seriously considering a career in cyber. By offering a pathway to future employment, this helps prevent gifted children drifting into cyber-crime, providing a positive outlet for their talents.”

Professor Tim Watson, Director of the WMG Cyber Security Centre at the University of Warwick commented: “With the UK’s high-profile focus on cyber security, as outlined in the Chancellor’s recent speech at GCHQ, it is essential that we help to create the next generation of cyber security professionals. Cyber Security Challenge is providing an inspirational lead in talent spotting and is raising the profile and attraction of a career in cyber security within schools and universities

Competition details and free teacher packs are available to schools across the country by signing up on the Challenge website: www.cybersecuritychallenge.org/education or by contacting schools@cybersecuritychallenge.org.uk  

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