Scottish pupils make a strong showing at this year's CyberFirst Girls competition

Over 37,000 girls have taken part in the challenge since 2017

A group of schoolchildren working on PCs

A cohort of Scottish pupils have demonstrated their code-breaking prowess by securing their semi-final place in a competition designed to tackle the lack of female representation within the industry.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition, run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), is a contest for girls between the ages of 12 and 13, competing in teams of four, who are willing to put their digital skills and codebreaking abilities to the test in a chance to be crowned the UK’s champions.

Pupils from nine Scottish schools have progressed to the semi-final, where they will take on rivals from across the country.

In order to coincide with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February), the NCSC highlighted the strong nationwide participation in this year’s edition of the contest.

“We’re pleased to say that thousands of girls came forward to compete in this year’s CyberFirst Girls Competition and we congratulate the top teams which now go forward into the semi-finals,” said NCSC deputy director for Cyber Growth, Chris Ensor.

“These girls have opened the door to what could one day be an exciting and rewarding career, where more female representation is undoubtedly needed,” he said, adding that the NCSC owes “a special thanks to teachers who encouraged pupils to take up this fun opportunity to engage with – and hopefully be inspired by – cyber security”.

The home nation and English regions semi-finals are scheduled to take place on 19 March 2021, followed by the Grand Final on 26 April.

The NCSC reported that 6,500 girls nationwide took place in this year’s qualifying round, which lasted for 10 days until 3 February, with teams from more than 600 schools. Each challenge aimed to test skills in cryptography, data analysis, and problem-solving.

Participants were given a series of short tests, some of which included decrypting encoded passages and analysing unusual comments on a message board for clues about their origin, as well as calculating how long would it take to crack a 12 character password.

Since its launch in 2017, over 37,000 girls have taken part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition. The contest aims to tackle the gender imbalance and underrepresentation in cyber security, an industry where it is estimated that only one in five workers are female.

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