Four girls from London have been crowned U.K. cybersecurity champions after triumphing in the final of a nationwide contest for schools.

The winning team from Highgate School successfully saw off competition from thousands of challengers to triumph at the 2021 virtual CyberFirst Girls Competition, run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ.

In this year’s final round – the first to be held online – the ten finalists applied their skills in cryptography, logic and networking to tasks based on a fictional scenario where Internet of Things (IoT) devices including smart kettles and mirrors were infected with malware.

The winning team was announced by NCSC CEO Lindy Cameron and will receive laptops as part of their prize, along with a visit to a prestigious location later in the year.

The final marks the end of this year’s contest, which aims to inspire girls aged 12 and 13 to pursue their interests in technology and consider a career in cybersecurity – a field where women are still underrepresented in the U.K., making up just 16% of the cyber sector workforce.

The CyberFirst Girls Competition opens annually to girls in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland, and Year 9 in Northern Ireland, and since 2017, more than 43,000 girls have taken part.

This year, more than 6,500 girls from more than 600 schools entered as the contest went fully virtual for the first time. The 2021 finalists came from all corners of the U.K., with schools from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and five English regions.

The CyberFirst program offers a range of free opportunities to help school-aged children learn more about cybersecurity and support their interest in the field. This includes free courses for boys and girls, which aim to introduce pupils aged 14-17 to the cyber threat landscape and to develop their digital and problem-solving skills. Booking for this year’s summer courses is now open.