‘Cyber savvy’ girls in Scotland have been challenged by the Government to pit their digital wits against one another in a nationwide problem-solving and code cracking GCHQ competition. 

Organised by the National Cyber Security Centre, which was created by the Government in 2016 to boost skills and the UK’s cyber resilience, the annual CyberFirst Girls competition is designed to develop and nurture the next generation of cyber skilled professionals. 

Woman currently only make up 11% of the global cyber workforce, but by sparking a life-long interest in the girls who take part, and tapping into new talent, this could ultimately turn into more careers in cyber security, helping to make the UK one of the safest places to live and do work online.  

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, said:“The digital sector is becoming increasingly significant in all aspects of our lives so it is only right that its workforce is representative of society. That is why initiatives like this, the Cyber First Girls Competition, are so important. 

“I am delighted that the competition, designed to encourage more girls into cyber security, will be held in Edinburgh further reinforcing Scotland’s reputation as a cyber resilient nation.

“I wish everyone taking part the best of luck and hope more young women in Scotland consider a career in cyber security as a result.”

Margot James, the UK Government Digital Minister, added: “We want to show girls across the country that cyber security is exciting, rewarding and challenging.   

“The CyberFirst Girls competition will help inspire the workforce of the future and also show girls that whatever their background or interest, a career in cyber security is fulfilling.   

“It’s been a fantastic success so far and I hope thousands more will take part this year.”  

Over the past two years 12,500 female pupils in schools across the UK have participated in the annual CyberFirst Girls competition to crown the UK’s most cyber-capable young women.  In the 2018 competition, ten schools from Scotland were in the top 100 schools. 

Open to girls in S2 in Scotland (12-13yrs of age), participants can enter in teams of up to four, along with a teacher/school mentor who will act as a guardian. The competition has two stages – a week long online phase in January and a finals day in March 2019.   

The first, online phase of this year’s competition, which launches today, will see each team attempt to complete a series of challenges split into four categories: cryptography, cyber security, logic and coding and networking. The top 10 teams will compete in a face-to-face Grand Final in Edinburgh in March 2019.  

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, said: “Over the last two years an amazing 12,500 young girls have tackled our CyberFirst Girls competition. The third edition will be bigger and better than ever, and we hope a new set of entrants are queuing up to take the challenge.  

“Women are still only a small proportion of the global cyber work-force and engaging with and inspiring the next generation is key to addressing the current cyber skills gap.  

“Good luck to those taking part – Scotland, your challenge awaits!”