GCHQ today (14 December) released this year’s #GCHQChristmasChallenge for schoolchildren, designed to test a range of problem-solving skills and inspire an interest in STEM subjects.
The puzzle, masterminded by a team of the agency’s in-house puzzlers, features on Director GCHQ’s Christmas card. The card is sent to partners in the UK and around the world who work with the intelligence, cyber and security agency to counter threats, including hostile state activity, terror groups and organised crime gangs.
Secondary school classes across the country will need to work as a team to crack the Christmas challenge, featuring seven fiendish puzzles. The puzzles are based on the seven disciplines of: languages, engineering, codebreaking, analysis, maths, coding and cyber security – all key skills needed at GCHQ to help keep the country safe.
But this year’s challenge comes with a twist… Once they solve all seven puzzles, schoolchildren will need to think outside the box, using the design on the front of the card to assemble the answers, forming three separate What3Words locations. Joining the three placenames together will reveal the special festive answer.
GCHQ is also encouraging the wider public to take on the challenge to pit their wits against the GCHQ puzzlers.
Director GCHQ Sir Jeremy Fleming, said:
“From breaking Enigma to harnessing the latest cutting edge technology, our brilliant people have worked together throughout our history to help keep the country safe. This year’s GCHQ Christmas Card Challenge gives an insight into the skills we need every day as part of our mission – from languages to coding.
But skills alone won’t be enough to crack this one. Puzzlers need to combine a mix of minds to solve the seemingly impossible.”
Based on the seven disciplines featured in the recently published Puzzles for Spies book, the #GCHQChristmasChallenge tests the lateral thinking, ingenuity and perseverance needed by those working at GCHQ across its missions to keep the country safe.
Schools interested in taking part in the puzzles, can find a resource pack on the GCHQ site here. Young people who enjoy the Christmas Card puzzles and are interested in developing their cyber skills are encouraged to take part in the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberFirst activities, or find more puzzles on the GCHQ website.