Oxford High School girls beat 8000 rivals to qualify for final of National CyberFirst Girls challenge

A team from Oxford High School qualified for the final of a national contest to find the UK’s best cyber security talent of tomorrow.

On Monday 27 March, Alice Travis, Becky Hore and Elizaveta Sheremetyeva (all 15) from Oxford High School travelled to the heart of Westminster to pit their technological wits against girls from nine other schools at the final of CyberFirst Girls competition.

The competition has been organised by the National Cyber Security Centre, a part of GCHQ, to generate more interest amongst young women in the increasingly important field of cyber security.

More than 8,000 girls aged 13-to-15 accepted the NCSC’s challenge to take part in the online rounds, and by reaching the final, the Oxford High School team, who competed as the ‘Cyber Kittens’, finished third which is in in the top 0.5% of entrants (2171 teams). They took part in a full day of digital investigation in Lancaster House to unravel a fictional mystery that had seen the fictional Paddock Hill School website hacked. The final transformed a historic government building in Westminster into a live-action cyber centre to test the girls’ security skills through a series of challenging scenarios. As they worked their way through the challenges to find clues to unravel the hack, they were supported by female tech industry champions Miriam González (Inspiring Girls International’s founder), Dido Harding (TalkTalk’s chief executive), Sian John (Symantec’s chief strategist) and Jacqueline de Rojas (TechUK’s president).

They then presented their findings to a panel of Industry Champions, featuring Dido Harding, Miriam González and NCSC directors Alison Whitney and Chris Ensor.

Oxford High Finalist Elizaveta Sheremetyeva said:
“People like Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace have always been my role models and this puts me a step closer to being like them”

Oxford High Finalist Becky Hore said:
“The thing we enjoyed most about the competition was the variety of challenges and the satisfaction of completing them. It would be great to see more competitions like this in the future – we would definitely take part!”

Alison Whitney, the deputy director for digital services at the NCSC, said:
“I would recommend working in cyber security to any young woman hoping to make a positive impact on the world.
“Cyber security is increasingly important to help people live and work online, and we hope CyberFirst Girls will help young women develop skills that could lead to a dynamic and rewarding career.”

Miriam González said:
“I am truly impressed by the talent of the girls who have taken part of the competition and I do hope that many of them pursue a career in the technology field.
“Inspiring Girls International is proud of collaborating with CyberFirst Girls, a wonderful initiative to inspire young women that shows to them that cyber security can offer a very interesting career for both, men and women, who are willing to make an impact in our society.”

The government is fully committed to defending against cyber threats and address the cyber skills gap to develop and grow talent. A five year National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) was announced in November 2016, supported by £1.9billion of transformational investment.

The NCSC was opened by the Queen in February 2017 and provides a single, central body for cyber security at a national level. It manages national cyber security incidents, carries out real-time threat analysis and provides tailored sectoral advice.

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