Back in the mid-late 20th century, hollywood brought us visions of the future that often involved outlandish ideas about technology. Even the early millennials (people born within the 1980’s) were subject to movie classics such as Blade Runner, Demolition Man, Total Recall, Back to the Future, Minority Report, etc.
Although our cityscapes haven’t changed as dramatically as these movies predicted, a lot of the predictions for technology have come to pass, branded as ‘smart technology’.
Everyone now carries their personal identities on ‘Smart Phones’, which they use to document their daily lives on Social Media. ‘Smart Phones’ are gradually being developed into semi-permanent attachable devices called ‘Smart Watches’ (is the next step a ‘smart implant’?)
We’re checking ourselves out of ‘Smart Supermarkets’, having driven there in our ‘Smart Cars’ because our ‘Smart Fridges’ told us we’re low on something. When we arrive home to our ‘Smart Houses’, which are regulated by our ‘Smart Meters’, we check our Social Media on our ‘Smart Phone’s’ to be bombarded with adverts for products that facial recognition cameras, for ‘Smart Marketing’, have watched us glance at whilst in the ‘Smart Supermarket’. Or, for those of us who aren’t so interested in Social Media, we will turn on our ‘Smart TV’s’ to watch programs that it’s learnt we like.
This is our world today. It may look a little different and not be so obvious, but the future that hollywood predicted in the 20th century is here and now, making all of our lives easier. However, none of it would work without being connected to the internet 100% of the time.
Cyber Bullying, Cyber Terrorism, Cyber Attack, Cyber Crime. These are all terms that you may have heard of in recent years. With the majority of our world’s industry relying on being online, these are advanced, real and present threats to our new digital existence, which need to be addressed.
Whilst the world relentlessly pushes ever further into the deeper depths of digital, these ‘cyber terms’ are the main threats that will face our younger generations future day to day lives.
GCHQ (UK Government Communications Headquarters) in Cheltenham in the Cotswolds, is leading the way in cyber security, preventing and protecting us from these new advanced threats with their NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre).
Globally, cyber security tends to attract mostly male applicants, with only 10% of applicants being female. To combat this trend by bringing awareness to careers in cyber security to the female population, NCSC, a part of GCHQ, organised a #CyberFirst competition, which saw more than eight thousand young women aged thirteen to fifteen, from two thousand one hundred schools across the UK, enter the online heats in teams of three or four.
Cotswolds based school, Hanley Castle Highschool in Worcestershire, was represented by four of their students: Hannah Revett, Alex Vickers, Libby Nicklin and Emily Manton (all 15) under the team name ‘Hanley One’.
If the ‘Hanley One’ team were to do well in the competition, their science teacher Ms. Diana Hawkins, promised the girls an Aston Martin each, seeing as they would all officially be ‘Jane Bonds’.
Out of the eight thousand girls across the UK, making up the two thousand one hundred teams taking part in the cyber security competition, the ‘Hanley One’ team impressed judges by earning an incredible position within the top ten during the finals.
Ms Diana Hawkins, science teacher, said:
“The girls put so much effort and many hours of hard work into the competition, we knew they must have done well, but with so many schools involved there was no way of telling exactly how well. Before the finals, I did say to the girls that if they get far in this, they’ll be working for GCHQ, MI5 / MI6, and all be ‘Jane Bonds’.
Whilst we were waiting for results, I told them jokingly that if they did well, I’d get them all an Aston Martin. The day the message came through that they were through to the top ten nationally, there was much, much celebration.
Hanley Castle Highschool were one of only two non-selective mixed schools to be involved with the competition. It’s huge for us to be involved and we’re thrilled with how well the girls have done.
In the nicest way, NCSC have said they’ll track the future progress of the young ladies who were involved, and if they apply for jobs with GCHQ they’ll be looked upon favourably. Not only this, GCHQ are also offering positions for the girls on a ‘Cyber Defenders’ four day course at Warwick University.
But after offering an Aston Martin, I thought ‘what should we do now’? We looked online for maybe a model of an Aston Martin each, but it didn’t feel right.
I emailed the story to HROwen Aston Martin in Cheltenham to see if they could help. Paul Carvell, Brand Ambassador for HROwen, contacted us with their congratulations and kindly offered a drive experience for the girls in one of their fabulous Aston Martins.
It was kept a complete secret from the girls, so a big lovely surprise for them.”
The competition 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, both Worcestershire teams finished in the top 0.5% of entrants, and took part in a full-day of digital investigation to unravel a fictional mystery that had seen the fictional Paddock Hill School website hacked.
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, where the Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School were the eventual winners, after finding a total of 28 cyber clues about the hackers’ identity.
Alison Whitney, the deputy director for digital services at the NCSC, said:
“The girls from Worcestershire were all 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.”
Quite rightly, GCHQ described the event as ‘life affirming’, saying how the Worcestershire girls success deserves all of the attention it can get. The competition was such a success that NSCS are looking to run another in 2018. Ciaran Martin, CEO of the NCSC, was especially impressed with the eye opening talents and skills, from such a young generation, on display during the competition.
Cotswold Allure Magazine would like to commend GCHQ and NCSC for their initiative of encouraging girls to consider a career in cyber security, and offer an enormous congratulations to Hanley Castle High School and their Hanley One team.