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Sixth Form A level Maths students win Cybersecurity Competition
Rachel Bampton

Congratulations to A Level mathematicians Ed and Tim, Lower Sixth, who have won an online cybersecurity competition run by GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters and one of three of the UK’s Intelligence and Security Agencies). Both pupils have been awarded an online cybersecurity foundation course with SANS, worth US$3,000.

Launched in October 2020, this nationally run competition is designed to encourage young people aged 13 to 18 years old to engage with cybersecurity. With so much of our lives being dependent on technology now, the need to protect it from cyber criminals is increasingly important. The competition is also a way for the UK Government to attract the right kind of people into this field of work.

Over the course of a few weeks, Ed and Tim faced 14 varying challenges, which consisted of problem solving, decryption, and required an adequate understanding of coding. As the students progressed through each level, they were met with further, more complex, challenges. One of the more difficult tasks completed was compromising Linux servers on the internet, each of which contained files with one part of a secret code that the students needed to decipher and submit.

When asked about his experience completing the competition, Tim commented, ‘At the time we had no knowledge of what happened next, but we soon got an email inviting us to the ‘next round’ of challenges. We progressed through these challenges too, but there were a lot more in the second round and they were a lot more complex. The objective was simply to solve as many as we could. A month or two later, we got emails congratulating us on our efforts and providing us with a licence key to a commercial cybersecurity training course.’

An extremely informative and well-recognised course within the cybersecurity industry, both pupils developed an extensive understanding of computer systems and networks. Coupled with the foundation course, the boys’ successful completion of the competition will demonstrate their problem-solving abilities to prospective universities and employers.

Ed said, ‘The course will benefit me greatly as it covers almost every aspect of computer science, as well as cybersecurity concepts, which are essential for me to know about for a career in cybersecurity or any computer science related field.’

Both pupils will be applying to study Computer Science at a range of Russell Group universities, including Manchester and Bristol, with Cambridge and Southampton University being top choices. 

Further information regarding the SANS cybersecurity foundation course can be found here: https://www.sans.org/sans-foundations/