Year Nine girls battle it out in cybersecurity competition supported by Allstate NI

Girls aged 12-13 have battled it out in the Northern Ireland final of the UK CyberFirst Girls Competition, the UK’s flagship cybersecurity competition for schools.

Girls aged 12-13 have battled it out in the Northern Ireland final of the UK CyberFirst Girls Competition, the UK’s flagship cybersecurity competition for schools.

Now in its sixth year, the CyberFirst Girls Competition, supported by Allstate NI, introduces students to cybersecurity and helps them understand what a career in the field might look like.

Established by the National Cyber Security Centre, which is a part of GCHQ, ten teams of Year Nine girls from schools across the region took part in the Northern Ireland final at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast on Saturday.

Above  | Northern Ireland winners St. Catherine’s College, Armagh pictured with (L-R) Joe Dolan, Head of NI Cyber Security Centre, Lindy Cameron, CEO National Cyber Security Centre and John Healy, Vice President and Managing Director of Allstate Northern Ireland.

As the official sponsor and one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers in the field, Allstate NI hopes the competition will address the continued underrepresentation of women in the local cybersecurity workforce. Northern Ireland is the top international investment location for US cybersecurity firms and a renowned location for research and innovation in cybersecurity.

After a challenging online qualifying round, the 10 top scoring teams competed in a series of puzzles covering topics from cryptography to AI to logic. Regardless of their ability, the competition was an opportunity to learn why cybersecurity matters, where it could take them in future, and that they already possess many of the attributes needed for a successful career in the field.

Several individual and team prizes were awarded. A grand prize giving and celebration day for all finalists, including the overall winners St. Catherine’s College, Armagh, will be held later in the year.

Keith Lippert, Vice President and Deputy Chief Information Security Officer at Allstate NI, said:

“The CyberFirst Girls Competition is a fantastic initiative that fits with our commitments at Allstate NI to address gender diversity and inspire the incoming generation of cyber technologists. We are in an incredibly exciting time for the cybersecurity industry in Northern Ireland, and it is vital that we encourage more females to enter the sector and launch their careers at the cutting edge of this industry.”

Catherine McHugh, Principal of St. Patrick’s College Dungannon, an Allstate NI Silver CyberFirst school, commented:

“Initiatives like the CyberFirst Girls Competition are important not only in today’s recruitment climate, but in the face of growing cyber threats and the heightened exposure of our young people online. Our girls have enjoyed every second of this opportunity to compete and were all intrigued and engaged by the challenges and puzzles. We would like to thank Allstate NI for hosting this event and educating our pupils about the incredible opportunities that cybersecurity presents for their futures.”

Lindy Cameron, National Cyber Security Centre CEO, said:

“Congratulations to all the girls who took part in this year’s final of the CyberFirst Girls Competition in Northern Ireland – and a special well done to St. Catherine’s College Armagh for their success. The UK’s growing cybersecurity industry needs more female representation so it’s great to see thousands of girls nationwide taking part in the contest, many for the first time. I thank Allstate NI and teachers for their work helping us uncover new cyber talent and I hope for many of the girls this will be just the start of their interest in this area.”