Are Teen Girls The Future Of British Cyber Security?

Illustration by Abbie Winters
Most of us will know to never underestimate teenage girls. They're whip-smart, emotionally intelligent and, these days, extremely cyber savvy given the amount of time they spend online.

And the UK's intelligence agency seems to have cottoned on to this. GCHQ is launching a competition to encourage more girls to consider a career in cyber security and become the spies of the future, the BBC reported.

At present, just 10% of the global cyber workforce are women, according to the agency.

Girls aged 13 to 15 can enter the CyberFirst competition, which involves tests covering logic and coding, networking and cryptography.

They will work in teams of four to complete online tasks remotely via their school computers, with each stage becoming progressively more difficult.

The 10 highest scoring groups will then travel to London for the final in March, where they'll be asked to investigate a complex cyber threat, reported the BBC.

The lucky winners will get individual prizes, and £1,000 worth of computer equipment for their school.

"This GCHQ competition is a chance to encourage more girls into the exciting world of problem solving, creativity, team working and applying knowledge to real world situations, in the context of Cyber Security, get a chance to go to the Grand Final and win some great prizes," the agency writes on it website.

CyberFirst is part of a five-year National Cyber Security Strategy against online crime, announced in November 2016. It will be run by the new National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the main body for national-level cyber security.

A spokeswoman for the NCSC said "women can, and do, make a huge difference in cyber security," adding that the competition "could inspire many more to take their first steps into this dynamic and rewarding career".

GCHQ director Robert Hannigan also said it will give young women "a glimpse of this exciting world" and will give them a chance to use new skills.

“I work alongside some truly brilliant women who help protect the UK from all manner of online threats," he said. "My advice to all potential applicants would be: enjoy the experience and I look forward to meeting some of you.”

Why not encourage your younger sister, niece or cousin to start thinking about her career?
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