Education & Family

School codebreaking contest hunts cybersecurity talent

A child writing in a school book
Image caption The codebreaking challenges are available online but can be done on paper

Schools are being urged to sign up for a codebreaking competition aimed at developing the next generation of cybersecurity experts.

Teenagers from 14 to 16 will pit their wits against each other to break secret codes to uncover hidden messages and then write their own.

Schools will score points for coming up with the toughest codes and then have a virtual contest, attempting to crack those of other schools.

The contest was set up by the industry.

It is an extension of what is known as the Cyber Security Challenge, which is in its fourth year and was designed to find and encourage people to work in computer security, protecting people and organisations from hackers and computer viruses.

The challenge is being opened up to schools across the UK after a £90,000 investment from the Cabinet Office.

Flow of young people

The national contest will end with a face-to-face battle between the top performers, with the winners earning £1,000 for their school.

Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith said: "This latest initiative to introduce children in secondary education to cybersecurity is an excellent way of bringing talent into this area, helping young people to discover why cybersecurity matters and inspiring them to take up the profession."

Stephanie Daman, of Cyber Security Challenge, said securing valuable information was a priority for the UK and required an increasing flow of new talented young people into the industry.

"However, at present, we simply don't see the numbers coming through that we need," she said.

"The long-term solution must start at the grass roots and that means helping teachers find new fun, exciting and accessible ways for younger audiences to discover why cybersecurity matters."

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