Exciting expansion on the horizon for girls' cyber security competition

Originally launched in 2017, the hugely popular competition has gone from strength to strength

The NCSC's popular CyberFirst Girls Competition will be expanding, adding an additional regional semi-final stage between online qualifiers and the grand final.

Since launching in 2017, the scheme aimed at attracting young women into the field of cyber security has seen 24,000 keen registrants taking part in the competition.

For the first time in the competition's history, those who pass the initial online qualification round can then compete on a regional level before being pitted against the best in the country.

Previously, only the top ten teams from the online qualifying rounds would get to compete for the grand prize but the additional stage will afford more girls the chance to compete on a wider scale.

The semi-finals will take place simultaneously at venues across the UK and the winner of each region will then go to the final which will be hosted in Wales, taking place over two days in March.

"While the competition continues to grow in popularity, we want to make sure we're drawing on talent from all parts of the UK, and the introduction of regional semi-finals will help us do that," said Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for growth.

"I hope this new format will encourage more schools than ever to get involved and to help us build the diverse workforce so crucial to the nation's future cyber security."

According to personal accounts of last year's participants, the scheme was an overwhelming success, with 98% of competitors saying they wanted to learn more about cyber security.

12,000 girls competed last year, where their knowledge of topics such as cryptography, logic, networking and online safety was tested. The Edinburgh-based final gave the girls a realistic scenario involving a social media company which suffered a data breach.

The CyberFirst Girls competition was originally created as part of the 2016 National Cyber Security Strategy which aimed to tackle the widening skills gap in the UK by encouraging more young people to pursue careers in IT.

Registration for the upcoming 2020 competition opens on Monday 2 December for all girls from Year 8 (England and Wales), Year 9 (Northern Ireland) and S2 (Scotland).

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