News Article

GCHQ sponsors HackManchester for the first time

Last Updated: 21 Oct 2016
We challenge you to develop an innovative online tool in an 24 hour coding competition being run as part of Manchester Science Festival 2016.

News article - 26 Sep 2016

We are happy to announce that GCHQ will be sponsoring the HackManchester event for the very first time! Hack Manchester is a 24-hour coding competition. Teams of up to four people turn up with an idea, and just 24 hours later present a working product. 

The Junior event (ages 17 and below) is being run from 24-25 October 2016, and the Adult (18+) event is 29-30 October, as part of Manchester Science Festival. Both events are at the Museum of Science and Industry, and are ticket only.

The GCHQ Challenge

Every sponsor must provide a challenge, and we’ve based ours around steganography.

Steganography is a way of placing messages or information within other messages or information, such as digital watermarks or passport biometrics. 

Historically, steganography has been something intelligence agencies have used to send secret messages - from invisible ink, to microdots, to electronic data. 

Steganography is also used by serious criminals to disguise their communications, and GCHQ works to identify and investigate such communications. This challenge will help us test our ability to spot these methods when used for criminal or espionage purposes.

Attendees who choose GCHQ’s challenge will be asked to develop an innovative online steganography tool. The tool should be able to conceal data, have the capability to publish it online so it doesn’t look out of the ordinary, and then be able to reveal the data if you know what to look out for.

Here are some example implementations:

  • place data inside an image that could be uploaded to social media, but which looks like an image of an animal to visitors
  • embed data in a video which could be uploaded to a video sharing website, perhaps putting the data within a single frame or certain pixels within each frame of the video 
  • embed data inside a sound file as metadata that could be uploaded to the internet 

The Prizes

For the talented winners of the GCHQ Challenge, the prizes will be:

  • Junior event: 4 x Amazon Echo Dots, and 4 x GCHQ Puzzle Books
  • Adult event: 4 x Amazon Echos, and 4 x GCHQ Puzzle Books.


GCHQ is currently hiring within the Greater Manchester area. If you are a software engineer and are interested in working for us, please visit our careers website.