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Pupils from Highgate have been crowned winners of the 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition run by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre.

Iva, Imogen, Sophia and Calliope from Y8 took part in the first-ever online final on Monday 26 April 2021, alongside nine other teams from across the UK, to tackle cyber security challenges. Their fellow Y8 teammate Alexandra was part of the team who helped to win the qualification round and the semi-final against the other London schools, but sadly couldn’t be there for the final.

The Highgate team, known as the Algorithm Alphas, triumphed over more than 6,500 rivals in a nationwide contest aimed at inspiring more girls to develop cyber skills.

In this year’s final round – the first to be held online – the ten finalists applied their skills in cryptography, logic and networking to tasks based on a fictional scenario where Internet of Things (IoT) devices including smart kettles and mirrors were infected with malware.

CyberFirst final

Ms Eleonora Fontanesi, Teacher of Computer Science at Highgate said “I am delighted and so proud of the girls. They’ve all worked incredibly hard, training for many lunchtimes and break times too. During lockdown, we met virtually almost every day! The final was very exciting and quite tense at times, but they worked really well as a team, which I was so impressed with. They’ve excelled themselves.”

The winning team was announced by NCSC CEO Lindy Cameron and will receive laptops as part of their prize, along with a visit to a prestigious location later in the year.

The final marks the end of this year’s contest, which aims to inspire girls aged 12 and 13 to pursue their interests in technology and consider a career in cyber security – a field where women are still underrepresented in the UK, making up just 16% of the cyber sector workforce.

UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman added: “This year’s competition has enabled thousands of girls from across the UK to boost their cyber skills and learn about a career in the industry. Thanks to the hard work of the NCSC, I know it will have inspired a new generation of female cyber defenders who will be protecting people and businesses online in the years to come.”