Teenage cyber sleuths from Chester have been praised for their security skills after impressing judges with their code-cracking abilities at a UK final.
Imogen Quadling, 15, Ellen Pierce, 14, Katelyn Harrington, 15, and Pollyanna Reed, 13, from The Queen’s School travelled to the historic Lancaster House in the heart of Westminster to pit their technological wits against girls from nine other schools from across the country at the national final on Monday (March 27).
The CyberFirst Girls competition was organised by the National Cyber Security Centre, a part of GCHQ, and saw more than 8,000 young women aged 13-15 from across the UK enter in teams of three or four.
It was created to raise more awareness of careers in cyber security among girls, because only 10% of the global workforce is female.
Team member Imogen Quadling said: “The thing we enjoyed most about the competition was the sense of achievement after completing a challenge task.
“We enjoyed working as a girls’ team because we know each other well and there was less ‘gender competition’.
“We really enjoyed the whole experience, including the online challenges and coming down to London – we couldn’t wait for the final.”
The final transformed the historic Lancaster House, just yards from Buckingham Palace, into a live-action cyber centre to test the girls’ security skills through a series of challenging scenarios.
By reaching the final, the Chester team, who competed under the name QBit, finished in the top 0.5% of entrants, and took part in a full-day of coding to unravel a fictional mystery that had seen the pretend Paddock Hill School school hacked.
They then presented their findings to a panel of industry champions, featuring TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding, TechUK president Jacqueline de Rojas, NCSC director for digital government Alison Whitney and NCSC director for skills Chris Ensor.
The Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School were the eventual winners, after finding a total of 28 cyber clues about the hackers’ identity, but the Chester school was not far behind after decoding 24 clues.
The deputy director for digital services at the NCSC Alison Whitney said: “The girls from The Queen’s School were very worthy finalists – the standard of work was incredibly high and we were very impressed with their work.
“Having worked in cyber security for over a decade 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.”