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CyberFirst Girls Competition Encourages Young Women To Engage Cybersecurity

The lack of available cybersecurity professionals has been well documented in the media recently, with as much as 45% of businesses industry-wide reporting a lack of cybersecurity skills. Due to the sheer number of websites being hacked, experts in the field are highly sought after and often unaffordable.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have been trying to help tackle this problem at a grassroots level. A recent programme to encourage students to take interest in cybersecurity gained 20,000 sign ups in its first six weeks of opening. Now under the same ‘CyberFirst’ banner, the NCSC are launching a girl only competition. The website claims it’s a “fun way to learn about cybersecurity and practice skills in a simulated real-world environment”.

It’s a team event, each team made up of four students; allowing them to compete in online cybersecurity challenges.  The NCSC blog post tells us:

This year the competition is only open to girls in year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland and year 9 in Northern Ireland. We know there will be many disappointed young ladies out there, but since this year group have yet to take their options, we're hoping that participants who enjoy the competition are encouraged to consider choosing computer science, maths or other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects as an option.”

The competition is based on cyber topics within the computer science syllabus, but also contains some advanced subjects not covered in traditional education. This has been done to “stretch lateral thinking and additional cyber knowledge of the teams”. The questions are derived from skills used every day by cybersecurity professionals.

The rules are as follows:

  • All team members must be female and in year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland and year 9 in NI and be attending a UK based school.
  • The registered teams must complete the online round between 29th January and 5th February 2018.
  • Students should not receive any outside assistance in completing the online round. The Team Guardian is in place to guide and mentor the team and must not participate in the competition.
  • No offensive or unethical activity is permitted throughout both phases of the competition.
  • Teams should not share or post answers to any of the online Challenges.
  • Your school must be prepared to attend the Grand Final in the Greater Manchester area on the 18th /19th March 2018.
  • The top 10 teams from the online round will be invited to the Grand Final.
  • In the event of a tie for 10th place, NCSC will analyse the ‘challenges’ data before deciding which school will go forward.
  • The team members that qualified in the online competition need to be the same team members that attend the Grand Final.
  • In the event of more than one team from a school achieving a score in the top ten, only the team with the highest score from that school will be eligible for the final.
  • NCSC’s decision is final on any aspect of the competition.

A study of almost 20,000 cybersecurity professionals worldwide indicates that the percentage of women in the industry has barely changed since 2004. Women comprise only 8% of the UK cybersecurity profession and 11% of the global workforce.  The study comes from The Centre’s Global Information Security Workforce Study, sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton. 

It's projected that by 2022, there will be a shortfall of 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals. Whilst there are a myriad of factors that affect industry-specific job growth, it's clear that a drive to increase female interest in cybersecurity would have a dramatic impact on the reported skills shortage. 

If you’re a teacher looking to get your students involved, you can find the information for schools here and how to get started here. Good luck!