Young girls put cybersecurity skills to the test at schools competition

Published: February 6, 2023

Glenlola Collegiate Girls School, Bangor crowned winners in Northern Ireland competition supported by Allstate NI

Girls representing Glenlola Collegiate Girls School won the CyberFirst Girls Competition.

Girls from twelve schools across Northern Ireland have put their cybersecurity skills to the test in the Northern Ireland final of the UK CyberFirst Girls competition.

The flagship UK cybersecurity competition for schools, CyberFirst Girls is supported in Northern Ireland by Allstate NI. The team from Glenlola Collegiate Girls School, Bangor were crowned the winners in a live final at the company's Belfast office on Saturday.

Designed to introduce girls to the discipline of cybersecurity and help them understand what a career in cyber might look like, the competition involved a series of puzzles and group exercises covering topics from cryptography to AI to logic.

Regardless of their ability, literacy or numeracy skills, the competitors were given the 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.

After a challenging online qualifying round, the top twelve teams of Year Nine girls from schools across Northern Ireland took part in the live final on Saturday. Established by the National Cyber Security Centre, which is a part of GCHQ, the competition was attended and addressed by Lindy Cameron, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre.

As the official sponsor and one Northern Ireland's largest IT employers, 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.

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

The schools who competed in the CyberFirst Girls competition are as follows:

  • St Dominic's Grammar School, Belfast
  • Ballymena Academy
  • Glenlola Collegiate Girls School, Bangor
  • Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch
  • Thornhill College, L'Derry
  • St Patrick's and St Brigid's College, Claudy
  • Strathearn School, Belfast
  • St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon
  • Our Lady's Grammar School, Newry
  • The Royal School, Armagh
  • Our Lady and St. Patrick's College, Knock
  • Dalriada School, Ballymoney
Keith Lippert, Vice President and Deputy Chief Information Security Officer at Allstate NI, said:
"CyberFirst Girls is an inspiring initiative that fits with our goals at Allstate NI to education and inform the next generation of cyber technologists. Northern Ireland's cyber sector is growing rapidly, but gender diversity is a real concern and we have a responsibility to address it. It was a pleasure to see the dedication of the competitors on Saturday, and we hope the competition has inspired more young females to launch their careers at the cutting edge of this industry."
Teacher at Glenlola Collegiate Girls School Janine Heron added:
"I am so proud of our four Cyber First winners at Glenlola. The girls have been truly dedicated to this competition and have enjoyed every second of this opportunity. I would like to thank Allstate NI and the National Cyber Security Centre for hosting this event and demonstrating the incredible opportunities the sector presents."
Lindy Cameron, National Cyber Security Centre CEO, said:
"Congratulations to all the girls who took part in this year's CyberFirst Girls Competition in Northern Ireland, and a special well done to Glenlola. The growing cybersecurity industry desperately 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 the local schools for their work helping us uncover new cyber talent and I hope for many of the girls that this will be just the start of their interest in this area."