Social-media savvy teenage girls targeted for recruitment by security services

Social-media savvy teenage girls are being targeted by security services in a bid to broaden their appeal 

Social-media savvy teenage girls are being targeted by security services in a bid to broaden their appeal and tackle their image as “male, pale and stale”.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) will launch a nationwide competition next month for schoolgirls aged 13 to 15, as part of a plan to recruit more female spies, dubbed Jane Bonds, to its ranks.

The initiative, which is part of CyberFirst, is the first of its kind to be set up by the eavesdropping agency. Spy chiefs hope that it will attract thousands of teenage girls, as the competition is remotely accessible at schools across the country.

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GCHQ in Cheltenham

“The CyberFirst Girls Competition allows teams of young women a glimpse of this exciting world and provides a great opportunity to use new skills,” said GCHQ director Robert Hannigan.

“I work alongside some truly brilliant women who help protect the UK from all manner of online threats.  My advice to all potential applicants would be enjoy the experience.”

Teenage girls can sign up in groups of four, and will be sent online tests and challenges in cyber security which they can take on their school computers.

These will include questions on logic, coding and cryptography, and each round will become more and more complex.

The 10 teams with the highest scores will be invited to a national final in London, where they will be given a complex cyber security threat to investigate.

The Government announced their five year National Cyber Security Strategy in November 2016 
The Government announced its five-year National Cyber Security Strategy in November 2016 CREDIT:  DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA WIRE

They will present their findings to a panel of spy chiefs, and the winning team will be awarded £1,000-worth of IT equipment for their school.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “Teenage girls from across the UK are being invited to pit their tech skills against one another in a GCHQ competition to find the best and brightest candidates to protect the nation from future cyber attacks.

“Only 10 per cent of the global cyber workforce are female, meaning millions of British women may be missing out on a career they could excel in.”

The Government announced its five-year National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) in November 2016, which has £1.9 billion in funding. Part of the budget will be spent on outreach and recruitment.

GCHQ’s CyberFirst initiative is funded by the National Cyber Security Programme in the Cabinet Office and is part of the NCSS.

GCHQ hopes to attract more teenage girls to its ranks
GCHQ hopes to attract more teenage girls to its ranks CREDIT: CULTURA CREATIVE (RF) / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

It aims to promote the agency as a possible career choice among secondary school students, as well as educating children about the perils of leaving too many personal details online.

As well as the competition aimed at teenage girls, CyberFirst will also run a programme of free activity days and residential courses for secondary school pupils.

Alan Smithers, head of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University, said: “Females played an important part in the work of Bletchley Park during the war. They are very systematic and careful and you would expect them to be able to do very well in this field.

Roger Moore, known for playing James Bond, downs a drink 
Shaken, not stirred: GCHQ hopes to attract ‘Jane Bonds’ CREDIT: PETER RUCK

“Teenagers use sophisticated technology as an everyday part of their social life and so it is odd that girls shouldn’t think of using these skills in their future careers. Girls will see that it isn’t something mysterious but a natural extension of what they do every day through social media.”

Last year, British intelligence agencies said they no longer insist new recruits have a university degree and that they favour “emotional intelligence” instead as part of a plan to recruit more middle-aged mums.

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have all used Mumsnet to find new female spies while some agencies have targeted older women working in social care who may be bored with their careers.


Can you solve these teasers found in the GCHQ puzzle book?

General hint: Many of the puzzles may look more intractable than they really are. In a lot of cases the trick is to approach the puzzle with the right mindset – in other words to think like a GCHQ puzzle setter. So for example when looking at a set of words, don’t think of them as words, think of them as a set of letters. And when looking at a set of letters, think whether they could be converted into numbers. And when looking at a set of numbers, think whether they could be converted into letters.


A poem

Whilst driving recently my car felt weird.

The steering failed and off the road I ______.

A gentle stop was not on the agenda.

I bruised my leg, and gosh did that feel ______.

I ______ right by the vehicle till the AA came along.

They spotted that the brake alignment had been set up wrong.

The mechanic in the garage said he would have to _____

and then replace the brakepipes, back into their groove.

He tested them and it turned out that the test results were poor.

So I asked for a ______ just to be quite sure.

You’ll see I’ve left 5 words out of my little doggerel rhyme.

They all have 6 letters – which should save you lots of time.

These words all fit together in a sort of square array.

Use this to solve the question: This all happened on what day?


Strictly Come Dancing is a television dancing competition. Professional dancers are paired with celebrities (of different sex), and each week they are marked by a set of judges, and then by an audience phone vote. The lowest scoring couple overall is eliminated from the competition. At one stage in a recent run there were just five couples left, and it was at the stage in the programme that only the judges had marked them. Each couple had got a different score.

Anna was pleased with second place as it made her the highest placed female professional dancer. However, Greg was disappointed with his position, particularly as Nigel and his professional partner had beaten him. The model burst into tears because the reporter finished higher up the table.

Teresa was delighted to have done so well, as was her professional partner, especially as he finished ahead of his wife Lilia (interestingly the five professional dancers included two married couples).

I noticed a couple of other things too – the winning celebrity had the same name as the fourth placed professional dancer, who partnered the businessman; and that if you read in order from highest to lowest score, the initial letters of the names of the professional dancers, the initial letters of the names of the celebrities, and the initial letters of the celebrities’ real professions, all spelled words.

Suggest a name for the last placed professional dancer (his name does not appear above).


Reorganize these shapes to make an appropriate picture. Some may need to be rotated, but none needs to be reflected or scaled in size.


The answers 1.

The missing words are VEERED, TENDER, STAYED, REMOVE, RETEST and the 6 words form a 3×3 box:





Zoltan (or any male name beginning with Z). The initial letters spell WALTZ, TANGO, RUMBA. (Italicised/highlighted names are not mentioned in the question.)




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