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Girl Scouts of USA Launch First National Cybersecurity Challenge

Girls across the United States of America will take part in the country's first ever National Girl Scouts Cyber Challenge tomorrow. 

Over 3,000 girls have signed up to practice their cybersecurity skills by solving a hypothetical ransomware attack on a moon base. Participants will form an incident response team that must find out who hacked the system and how they did it.

The adrenaline-filled simulation will incorporate both “plugged” stations that will require the girls to utilize traditional coding and hacking skills on laptops and tablets, as well as “unplugged” stations where they must solve written codes. 

The exciting event will allow girls to gain first-hand experience of how coding and cybersecurity are applied in the real world. No prior cybersecurity experience is necessary to take part, as organizers hope to inspire girls who haven't ever tried their hand at cybersecurity to give it a go and see if they like it. 

The challenge is being piloted at participating councils in Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, Texas, California, Arizona, Alabama, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Florida. If it proves successful, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) plans to roll the event out to all 111 of their councils.  

Presenting the challenge is US defense contractor Raytheon, which in November 2018 committed to a multi-year partnership with GSUSA to encourage girls to pursue computer science careers. Last year, with Raytheon's support, GSUSA launched its first ever national computer science program for middle and high school girls.

Girl scout Aashka, who helped to plan the National Cyber Challenge, told Infosecurity Magazine: "The current gender gap in the cybersecurity industry inspires me to be a trailblazer for my peers and young girls with an interest in STEM. I know that we are all just as capable as our male counterparts."

Asked what could be done to encourage more young people to pursue a career in cybersecurity, Aaskha said: "I would love to see schools adopt more innovative and engaging cybersecurity activities, where students can learn in groups, and participate in activities together. 

"Girls my age are usually uninterested in IT and coding because they may not have a full understanding of all the good it can do. Cybersecurity isn’t just sitting in front of a computer in a dark room coding all the time, it relates to all different aspects of everyday life and touches a variety of industries—from law enforcement to business.

"If classes can also focus on the practical applications of this topic, I think it could be more relatable to students."

A spokesperson for GSUSA said: "Raytheon is collaborating with Girl Scouts to help close the gender gap in STEM fields by helping prepare girls to pursue careers in fields like cybersecurity, computer science, artificial intelligence, and robotics. 

"Together, Raytheon and Girl Scouts are reaching girls during formative school years, where research shows peer pressure can sometimes deter girls from pursing their interest in STEM." 

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