Lydia, 17, from Belfast

Lydia, 17, from Belfast has attended the CyberFirst Defenders (2018), Futures (2019) and Advanced (2020) courses:

I have always enjoyed IT and I love expanding my knowledge and enhancing my skills in the area. As someone who frequently uses the internet, online platforms, and online games, being safe online is something I have always considered. Taking part in this course has allowed me to consider these areas at a whole new depth.


After attending Defenders in 2018, I really looked forward to applications coming out every year so I could apply. Although, the 2020 Advanced course was online due to the ongoing pandemic, I still thoroughly enjoyed the course. We were put into virtual breakout rooms so we could still chat to each other and work in teams, which was fun. It was a great opportunity to learn something new whilst being at home.


In my GCSE ICT class, there were only three girls out of a class of 14 students. This year in my BTEC ICT class of 17 students, I’m the only girl. I think that some girls are put off computing and see it as a ‘boys subject’, and cyber security is definitely a very male-led industry. However, it was nice at the CyberFirst course to see lots of other girls interested in computers, because there is a 50:50 split of boys and girls booked on the course.

Not only did the CyberFirst course allow me to gain new knowledge and skills, but there was also a great opportunity for making new friends with a similar interest of STEM-related subjects.

“You don’t have to be good at coding to get into the industry, there are so many career pathways available.”


On the course, we learned a lot about viruses and forms of cyber-attacks, for example being able to determine the difference between an email that could be a scam containing malware, and the impact that a link could have such as revealing personal information from the computer you are on.

I particularly enjoyed reverse image searching. We looked into the amount of information that could be gathered from a simple image such as exact location and date/time of the picture.

The instructors were all helpful in explaining exercises. It was great being able to interact with others throughout the day, taking part in the CTF (Capture the Flag) activity was great as well as interacting with others on the course to solve problems together.


Some students might associate cyber security with having strong passwords online, or not sharing personal details on the internet. Other students might associate it with who you talk to and engage with on the internet. However, it is so much more than that. You don’t have to be good at coding, for example, to get into the industry as there are so many other areas and career pathways available.


I would recommend the CyberFirst course to anyone who has an interest in STEM-related subjects. It gives a great insight and helps you gain basic skills that could help keep you and those around you safe online. You could even come away with valuable knowledge to assist future job applications.


CyberFirst introduces young people with a passion for computing and technology to the fascinating world of cyber security. It is a programme of opportunities inspired and led by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ. Join a course to start your CyberFirst journey.

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