NCSC bids to increase female representation in cyber security

The National Cyber Security Centre organises a girls-only competition because, despite a 300% increase in young people taking part in its courses, the global cyber workforce remains 89% male

Since launching in 2016, the GCHQ-affiliated National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)  has seen a 300 per cent growth in 11-to-17 year olds taking part in its CyberFirst courses.

In a bid to redress the sector’s pronounced gender imbalance, NCSC also runs a CyberFirst Girls competition, with teams of up to four students  – alongside a teacher/school mentor – pitting their cyber wits against one another in a set of online challenges.

Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for skills and growth, said: “In the first two editions of the CyberFirst Girls competition we have seen how much entrants engage with the challenges we set, and this year’s competition is due to be bigger and just as cryptic.”

“I really enjoyed how the competition story fitted together and was set out like a realistic cyber attack,” said Odette, a past participant from Gloucestershire. “The challenges covered skills in computing you wouldn’t ordinarily come across at school.”

As an added incentive to all the girls competing, the NCSC will be offering around 600 free places on specially commissioned four-day CyberFirst Defenders courses in April and May. The girls-only courses will be a mix of residential and non-residential at locations across the UK.

Over the past two years, 12,500 girls in schools across the UK have participated in the event.

The 2019 competition has two stages: an online phase taking place this week, and a finals day in Edinburgh.

The online section sees each team attempting to complete a series of challenges split into four categories: cryptography, cyber security, logic and coding and networking. The top 10 teams will move on to compete in the face-to-face grand final in March.

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