Gov. Jared Polis on Monday invited Colorado girls in grades 9-12 to participate in Girls Go CyberStart, an online challenge that introduces players to Linux, cryptography and programming, and leads to a national championship with scholarship awards.
“To maintain Colorado’s distinction as a nationally recognized leader in cybersecurity, we must equip our students with educational initiatives like Girls Go CyberStart,” Polis said in a statement. “I invite the next generation of leaders to take advantage of this opportunity and proudly represent Colorado.”
In the 2018-2019 school year, 288 girls from 45 Colorado schools participated. Student teams in Niwot, Highlands Ranch and Parker won $250 for their school and between $200 and $400 per individual team member.
A 2013 survey of the privately employed cybersecurity workforce found that women comprised only 11% of the industry.
“The information security discipline is not evolving fast enough,” the report stated, calling the disparity “alarming.”
NBC News reported last year that the organization backing the challenge asked governors to promote it among their high school students in exchange for access to the program.
In one of the basic challenges on the website, players are told they are cybersecurity agents.
“One of the hacker groups our agents have been following recently started sending large blocks of text to each other. The weird thing, however, is that they don't seem to mean anything,” the “Information Overload” challenge reads. The instructions say there is a hidden code in a large block of Latin text.
Once the player spots the key, they are taken to a much harder challenge: deducing a four-digit access code on a door with 10 numbered buttons.
Registration opens on Dec. 2 for clubs that wish to participate.