Inspiring the Next Generation of Cyber Security Professionals: Our Youngest CTF Winner

As advocates of cyber security accessibility across all parameters, we thrive through rolling out TryHackMe in schools and universities across the globe. We interviewed our youngest ever CTF winner about young people in cyber; here's what we discussed.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Cyber Security Professionals: Our Youngest CTF Winner

The whole TryHackMe team are passionate about accessibility in cyber security - training should be attainable across location, age range, and walks of life. As a part of this culture, we work with a vast spectrum of schools and Universities to teach cyber to young people. Our training is suited to the complete beginner through to the seasoned hacker, so we help introduce topics to young people with no prior experience, growing in complexity as our users grow in skills.

We ran a CTF event for over 1400 high school students in Scotland. In this week-long challenge, points were issued to the student - and school - with the highest number of points. Lucy, 14, from South Lanarkshire, came first! We chatted with Lucy about the event, TryHackMe, and her plans for the future.

CyberScotland’s CTF

We teamed up with CyberScotland, a collaboration of key stakeholders aiming to improve cyber resilience across Scotland. CyberScotland ran a week-long event to shine a light on the importance of cyber security, which partners and schools across the country adopted.

We hosted a CTF - capture the flag - event in this week-long drive, where participants hacked machines and solved cyber security challenges to earn points in order to climb up the event leaderboard. Introducing the winner, Lucy!

Why did you start learning cyber security?

I’ve always been interested in computer science and technology. When my school first introduced the option to start learning cyber security I was so excited. Everything I’d previously seen about hacking (like on TV shows) looked really cool, so combined with being interested in the industry already, I knew I wanted to get involved.

What has been the most challenging part of learning cyber security?

Using TryHackMe has been incredibly helpful in getting the hang of topics that I hadn’t seen before. I’d say the most challenging area so far has been Linux. I found this topic particularly complex in comparison to some other training rooms, but I overcame this by going through the training rooms and taking the time to study up and learn. I love Linux now!

What has been the most rewarding part of learning cyber security?

I especially enjoy learning hacking techniques! All the hacking rooms are fascinating, and you honestly don’t feel like you’re in school when you’re learning. I think this is where my love for cyber security kicked off; it’s like a game to learn!

Of course, winning the CTF across 1400 people in Scotland was amazing. We started to use TryHackMe in our lessons a little while before the CTF, and I found the training rooms easy to pick up as the topics are guided. The training is very understandable even if you’ve not heard of the concepts before. You're walked through everything without overly technical terminology. It’s also nothing like traditional learning, it’s so fun!

Why do you think it’s important for schools to teach cyber security?

Technology is a massive part of life now, in everything you do. It’s also something that is constantly growing, and with that, I think it’s important to be able to protect yourself online. Certain things are helpful for everyone to know, but getting into the mindset of a hacker and seeing what they do is the best way to protect yourself. On top of that, it’s awesome to delve further into cyber security and learn different hacking and defending skills, as it opens up doors for the future and helps with other relevant courses, like IT.

How would you like to continue your cyber security journey?

Cyber security is great for more guaranteed job openings than some other subjects. Our careers advisors always say to get into tech and computers as it’s ever-growing and needed in workplaces, and it’s great to have that security. I’m not completely sure what I will do for work in the future, but I know computer science is what I’m good at, and I really enjoy! I would love to build cyber security into this, and I know that I will continue learning for fun regardless of what I choose to do work-wise.

Let’s talk about girls in cyber; how has your journey been?

There’s definitely a stereotype about cyber security being a boy's subject. Even when I chose to study this, some people would say it’s not for girls! Really, all subjects can be for everyone, I don’t understand where stereotypes like this come from, but I love that I proved them wrong by winning the CTF!

What advice would you give young people looking to start studying cyber security?

If you’re interested in learning cyber security then absolutely do it! If it’s brand new to you, TryHackMe is a brilliant website to introduce you to topics and techniques, and it’s really engaging! I always thought it would be a difficult subject, but after easing into different topics and building up my knowledge I can happily say I was wrong! Go for it, it’s a lot of fun!

Getting young people involved in cyber security

We loved chatting with Lucy about her journey so far - thank you, Lucy! As a booming industry with a significant workforce skills shortage, training young people in these niches allows for a more secure route to work for those interested, and helps arm the cyber standing of businesses, governments, and countries across the globe.