News Article

GCHQ at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival 2013

Last Updated: 29 May 2013
We will be at the Festival again in 2013, taking our support for this exciting annual event into a ninth year.



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We will be at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival from 4-9 June, taking our support for this exciting annual event into a ninth year.

The Festival again provides GCHQ with an opportunity for some of its staff to get out and about to demonstrate not only its commitment to supporting the local community and encouraging the study of science-based subjects in schools and colleges but also to explain the importance of good cyber security.

This year GCHQ will have an even wider presence than before with its contributions spread over the Discover Zone at the Town Hall, Area 42 in the Imperial Gardens and at the first ever Cheltenham Cyber Security Conference in the Parabola Arts Centre on Friday 7 June.

In the Discover Zone, GCHQ’s young apprentices and industrial year students have again produced a range of innovative and thought-provoking displays and challenges that will not only test the problem solving, and at times the physical agility, of the visiting public but has also helped develop their skills in areas such as project management and communications.

Time is of the essence in a game called NetAttack where players have to race against the clock to stop as many cyber attacks on a network as they can whilst the Cyber Guardian game calls on quick thinking to ensure network traffic reaches the correct destination whilst all the time being under cyber attack.

 Danielle, one of GCHQ’s industrial year placement students, and one of the creators of NetAttack said:

"I’m really pleased to be able to get involved in the Science Festival this year, it’s always enjoyable and has a real vibe about it. It’s also a great chance for us to show the exciting, innovative and creative side of GCHQ which will hopefully inspire young people to think about one of our apprenticeship schemes."


Visitors to the Discover Zone will also get a chance to try their hand at computer programming with some Raspberry Pi configurations.

There is a nod to the past too with a ‘cluster’ of Raspberry Pi’s configured to simulate the processes of an original Bletchley Park wartime Bombe deciphering device and German Enigma cipher machine. This is a thoroughly modern take on the encryption/decryption process which took the forerunners of GCHQ, the GC&CS, many hours to complete at Bletchley Park but which now can be done in seconds.

The Director General for Technology and Capability said:

"The Times Cheltenham Science Festival is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the unique skills of our workforce and reach out to young people, stimulating their curiosity and helping them to understand how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – the STEM subjects – can affect their lives on a daily basis. We hope that the displays our apprentices and students have produced will inspire them on to think about a challenging and rewarding career with these subjects."

Imperial Gardens will be the setting for Area 42, an interactive science zone aimed at the over 14s. GCHQ will be here with some games and demonstrations, all with a cyber security flavour. These include a game called "Pulling the plug on cyber attacks" where players use a plug board to detect intrusions and then attempt to disable them, whilst there will also be a demonstration of how visitors can ensure they stay safe whilst online.

Linked to the Festival, the Parabola Arts Centre will play host to the first Cheltenham Cyber Security Conference. This aims to highlight to regional business and organizational leaders the threats inherent in cyberspace and what they should be doing to protect their data.

The keynote address will be given by David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, whilst other speakers will include the Deputy Director for the National Technical Authority, Chris Ensor who will be presenting "Getting cyber security right". They will be joined by experts from across business and academia who together will convey just why good cyber security should be a boardroom issue.


Netattack game


Raspberry Pi