On 10 December 2014, four of Haileybury’s talented IT pupils prevented a nuclear reactor from blowing up and defused a bomb by cracking a password – all in cyber space of course and all as part of the UK Schools Cyber Security Challenge. Battling it out face-to-face, with four other schools at the prestigious venue of the University of Warwick were: Harry Brand (Y11) (Team Leader), Marie Obrowski (Yr 10 ), Ben Hirschfield (Y10) and Eleanor Norris (Yr 12). The team followed very technical rules to create code-breaking/cipher challenges which comprised a mixture of plaintext documents (.txt), Microsoft Word documents (.doc/.docx), PDF documents (.pdf) and JPEG images (.jpg/.jpeg). They also had complex ciphers to decode using a mixture of skill, code and online tools. Some of the fascinating activities they undertook included cracking a cipher on a real Enigma machine brought in by GCHQ and completing tasks created by the National Crime Agency and independent cyber investigators. They were also shown techniques such as brute force password cracking, capturing and decoding a radio transmission of Elvis (singing Jail House Rock) using frequency shift equipment. The pupils showed great resourcefulness, incredible tenacity and excellent problem solving skills and although they didn’t win they did amazingly well to reach the final on their first attempt.
Cyber Security Challenge UK is a Not for Profit organisation that operates primarily through sponsorship. It is a way for public and private organisations to help solve one of the UK’s most pressing problems – the lack of emerging talent to defend the UK online. http://cybersecuritychallenge.org.uk/sponsors/