CyberFirst Defenders
CyberFirst Defenders

CyberFirst Defenders course

In the first week of the Easter holidays, I was lucky enough to go on a four-day residential course at the University Of Kent. The course was open to Year Eight girls across the country who had taken part in the 2019 GCHQ-run CyberFirst Girls’ Competition earlier this year. The course I attended was called CyberFirst Defenders and was designed to provide an introduction to the knowledge and skills needed to build and protect devices and small networks. GCHQ wants to recruit more women into a career in cyber security so the CyberFirst courses are meant to appeal to girls interested in computing and technology, and help them understand what kind of cyber-related careers they can consider.

Each day, there were three sessions. Some of these sessions were spent in the lecture theatre where our Trainers taught us about computing, or listen to a guest speaker talk about their career in cyber security. In other more practical lessons, called “Lab Sessions”, we were taught how to attack each others’ computers and protect our own. For the lab sessions, we used Microsoft Windows 10.

Day One

The lecture today focussed on teaching us about the Internet Of Things and how devices are connected in networks. In the lab session, we created our own team networks in groups of five people.

The guest speaker today was a woman from the police force who explained the legalities around using softwares such as the ones we will be introduced to, and why it is legal to do the things we will be taught in our lab sessions but not elsewhere except under certain circumstances.

Day Two

The lecture today taught us about good practice for securing our devices. The lab session introduced us to what makes a good password, and we used a software called Cain And Abel to try to crack each other’s passwords.

We also had a guest speaker, Cigdem Sengul who talked to us about her career working in cyber security with Nominet. She published a free teaching resource called “Networking With The Micro:Bit” which is aimed at year sevens and teaches the fundamentals of networking.

Day Three

Today, we spent most of our time in the labs using a RAT (Remote Access Tool) Trojan software called ProRat. Using clickbait, ProRat allowed us to gain complete control over other computers, even going so far as to lock the mouse and take photographs through the infected device’s webcam. Although it was very fun to control other people’s devices, being attacked by other teams really made us aware of how vulnerable most people’s computers are.

Day Four

Today was spent mainly in the lecture theatre, where we learned about IP addresses and common networking protocols. We also learned about different types of cookies (not the edible kind!) and how certain types of cookies, dubbed “Zombie Cookies” can be exploited by hackers to infect devices.

The last session of the day was dedicated to a 30-question Kahoot! quiz on every single thing we were taught, which was a huge amount crammed into a very short time. My nickname for the quiz was Kitkat (we had been told not to use our real names).

There were one hundred students competing and I won it!

Katherine Sarfaty (8G)