Schoolgirls of the north will pit their cyber skills against each other today, in an attempt to be crowned the country's top codebreakers.

Girls aged 12 and 13 from 28 schools are taking to their laptops to solve a series of online codebreaking challenges set by the NCSC, for the north of England final of the National Cyber Security Centre's CyberFirst Girls Competition.

It is the first time a northern England-only contest has been held thanks to the competition's new format, with local contests taking place throughout the UK, including Workington.

Almost 12,000 girls are taking part in this year's competition, and the top 10 teams from around the UK will face off in a Grand Final in Wales next month.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition was launched four years ago by the NCSC – a part of GCHQ – with the aim of boosting interest in cyber security among females, who are currently under-represented in the industry.

Previously, an opening online round has been followed by a national final, but this year a round of finals across the Home Nations and English regions has been introduced, allowing schools to compete to become local champions and earn a place in the grand final.

The contests will begin at 11am at 18 venues across the UK, with northern England's events being hosted at venues in Workington, Manchester, Leeds and Scarborough, with winners set to be announced after 3pm.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, said: "It's great to see girls from all corners of the UK putting their computing and cyber security skills to the test, and I wish them all the best of luck in this new round of the competition.

"Whether they progress to the final or not, hopefully many of the girls will be inspired to find out more about cyber security and pursue their interest in this exciting field."

The new format of the CyberFirst Girls Competition is designed to help the NCSC unearth talent, as well as spark interest in cyber among girls from around the country.

The competition was launched by the NCSC in 2017, and tests skills on topics ranging from logic and cryptography to networking and online safety.

The NCSC is offering a free CyberFirst Girls Competition Development Day, with bookings available from February 10, and more details can be found at