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Oscar Williams

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Can you crack these codes? GCHQ launches competition to inspire girls to work in cyber security

British spies have devised 100 challenges to inspire girls at secondary school to consider a career in cyber security.

The puzzles, five examples of which are published below, are aimed at 12 to 13-year-olds and vary in difficulty.

Chris Ensor, the deputy director of skills at GCHQ’s public-facing division NCSC, said the competition is open exclusively to girls because women make up only 10 per cent of the cyber workforce internationally.

“We want to inspire the next generation of tech-savvy young women to consider a career in cyber security and make a positive impact on the world,” he said. “Females are worryingly under-represented in the global cyber workforce, but there are exceptionally talented girls in our schools.”

Registration for the competition, the first part of which is an online test with 100 puzzles, opens today, and the top ten teams will be invited to take part in a live final in Manchester in March. The winning school wins £1,000 for IT, with winners taking home individual prizes too. Around 8,000 girls took part last year.

Challenge 1: Domino Logic

  • We can use dominoes to create logic gates, you just have to work out how the dominoes will fall.
  • Pushing a domino input represents a 1 on a logic gate. Leaving dominoes standing represents a 0.
  • Can you work out what would happen when you push the dominoes and use it to complete the logic tables below?

NCSC puzzle

 

Challenge 2: Decode the secret message

Can you work out what the sentence says?

This gets redrah ot wvguwv kkwdfm 647 892546 848858234 8112 38313538333238373334323132383231323834313638313538343834383838333534 …– –… …– -…. …– ….- …– —.. …– -…. …– —.. …– ….- …– …– …– –… …– …– …– ….- …– ….- …– —.. …– ….. …– —.. …– ..— …– —.. …– …– …– ….. …– ….- …– ….- …– ….. …– …– …– —.. …– .—- …– —.. …– —.. …– ….- …– -…. …– —.. …– ….- …– …– …– ….- …– —.. …– ….. …– —.. …– ..—

Challenge 3: ‘Rotters’

  1. Thirteen rotters stole my answer and they ROTated it by 4 and then ROTated it by 10 and all I have left is Uccr ziqy hc ozz QmpsfTwfgh Uwfzg!  – can you help me get my answer back?

Challenge 4: Anagram Crossword

We hope to inspire the next generation of cyberists, can you find some inspirational tech innovators from our clues (and solve the anagram hidden in the grey boxes)?

Clues

2D and 4D 1906 (5,6)

3D and 5D 1957 (6, 6)

7D and 6A 1623 (6, 6)

8D and 7A 1949 (5, 4)

11D and 9A 1815 (3, 8)

12A and 1D 1914 (4,6)

13A and 10A 1912 (4, 6)

Challenge 5: Can you crack the NCSC’s regex crossword?

Answers

Challenge 1:

Domino Logic 1:  0 1 1 1

Domino Logic 2: 0 1 1 0

Domino Logic 3: 0 0 0 1

Challenge 2:

The workings out

Every two words, something else is done to the text, it goes

Backwards: This gets redrah ot edoced sselnu uoy dekrow erehwemos ekil nevesorezthgieowtruofnevestodorezhsad ruofeerhtevifxiseninenintodenoevif

This gets harder to

Caesar Cipher (18): This gets redrah ot wvguwv kkwdfm mgq vwcjgo wjwzowegk wcad fwnwkgjwrlzyawgoljmgxfwnwklgvgjwrzksv jmgxwwjzlwnaxpakwfafwfaflgvwfgwnax

This gets harder to decode unless

Text Keypad: This gets redrah ot wvguwv kkwdfm 647 892546 959969345 9223 3969545975992946556493969554845979578 5649995959629725932393235489349629

This gets harder to decode unless you worked

Number shifted down one: This gets redrah ot wvguwv kkwdfm 647 892546 848858234 8112 2858434864881835445382858443734868467 4538884848518614821282124378238518

This gets harder to decode unless you worked somewhere like

Numbers reversed and converted to hex: This gets redrah ot wvguwv kkwdfm 647 892546 848858234 8112 38313538333238373334323132383231323834313638313538343834383838333534 37363438363834333733343438353832383335343435333831383834363834333438353832

This gets harder to decode unless you worked somewhere like fiveonedotnineninesixfivethreefour

Converted to Morse: This gets redrah ot wvguwv kkwdfm 647 892546 848858234 8112 38313538333238373334323132383231323834313638313538343834383838333534 …– –… …– -…. …– ….- …– —.. …– -…. …– —.. …– ….- …– …– …– –… …– …– …– ….- …– ….- …– —.. …– ….. …– —.. …– ..— …– —.. …– …– …– ….. …– ….- …– ….- …– ….. …– …– …– —.. …– .—- …– —.. …– —.. …– ….- …– -…. …– —.. …– ….- …– …– …– ….- …– —.. …– ….. …– —.. …– ..—

This gets harder to decode unless you worked somewhere like fiveonedotnineninesixfivethreefour dashzerodotsevenfourtwoeightzeroseven

(The long numbers at the end are the co-ordinates to Bletchley Park Mansion).

Challenge 3:

Answer: Good luck to all CyberFirst Girls!

Explanation:

Solution Rot13 is a letter substitution cipher, it’s a special case of the Caesar cipher. To obtain the answer, undo the ROT13 4 letter shift and the ROT13 10 letter shift. To get back to the original answers you need to rotate 26 letters then a=a again. 26-14 = 12. Using a ROT13 12 letter shift will return the deciphered text.

Challenge 4:

Solution

The anagram is: PIONEERS

2D and 4D 1906 (5,6) – Grace Hopper (pioneer of computer programming who helped to popularise machine-independent programming languages)

3D and 5D 1957 (6, 6) – Sophie Wilson (designer of the Acorn Micro-Computer and instruction set of the ARM processor – which became the model used in modern smart phones)

7D and 6A 1623 (6, 6) – Blaise Pascal (17th century French mathematician who is credited as being one of the first two inventors of mechanical calculators)

8D and 7A 1949 (5, 4) – Anita Borg (computer scientist who founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and Institute for Women and Technology)

11D and 9A 1815 (3, 8) – Ada Lovelace (Visionary mathematician who is often regarded as the first computer programmer, recognising that the machine could do more than just crunch numbers)

12A and 1D 1914  (4,6) – Hedy Lamarr (Inventor of a pioneering radio signalling system in the 1940s paving the way for modern encryption)

13A and 10A 1912 (4, 6) – Alan Turing (Inspirational founder of many landmark computer science inventions in the 20th Century, including brilliant code-breaking and code making machines)

Challenge 5:

Explanation

Can you crack our cryptic crossword? Instead of a word or phrase, each clue is a regular expression (or a ‘regex’). To complete the puzzle, find the letter matching both the horizontal and vertical regex for each square.

Confused? Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Characters in square brackets [SUCHASTHIS] are ‘character classes‘. They signify any of the characters in the box.
  • A caret/hat (^) inside a character class [^LIKETHIS] inverts the match. (Must NOT be any of the characters in the box).
  • Numbers in curly brackets (like {2}) means that the character/pattern immediately before it must occur this number of times. (So A{3} literally means AAA).

Answer

Your best and wisest refuge from all troubles is in your science. – Ada Lovelace. – i.e.