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December 12, 2014

GCHQ app hones cyber skills for spy kids

Free Cryptoy app teaches children basic encryption techniques.

By Ellie Burns

GCHQ is giving school children the chance to hone their cyber sleuthing skills with the release of its first tablet app.

Cryptoy is a free app centred around cryptography, designed by GCHQ for use by secondary school students. Students will be able to learn basic encryption techniques and even encode their own messages.

These encoded messages can be shared via social media, with recipients able to utilise the app to try and decode their friends messages.

Designed by students on an industrial year placement at GCHQ, the app was created as part of a project to demonstrate encryption techniques at the Cheltenham Science Festival. The app was a hit which led to the decision to make it available to the public.

The cryptography used in the app are from an earlier era, yet the design principles that their inventors used are the same as those of modern cryptographic designers. It is this similarity in mindset that all cryptographic designers need, whether they were working two thousand years ago or today.

Robert Hannigan, Director GCHQ, said, "Building maths and cyber skills in the younger generation is essential for maintaining the cyber security of the UK and growing a vibrant digital economy. That is why I am keen for GCHQ to give something back through its work with school and universities."

"In particular, the Cryptoy app is a colourful, interactive way for students and their teachers to explore the fascinating world of cryptography. The app was developed by GCHQ’s industrial placement students and trialled at a number of science fairs. I hope it will inspire further study of this key topic, which has played such an important part in our past and is an invaluable part of our future."

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