Whitburn pupil wins national cyber security challenge set by police

A school pupil with a talent for computer science came up trumps after taking on a national challenge organised by police cyber crime experts.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 3:56 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 4:23 pm
Taha Abuhamira won the 11-14 age group for The Matrix Challenge

Taha Abuhamira, from South Shields, won the 11-14 age group for The Matrix Challenge, a national cyber security competition run by the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Cyber Crime Unit (YHRCCU).

Whitburn Church of England Academy Year 11 student was one of 65,000 people taking part in the competition, which pitted the most talented 11-17-year-olds against a series of digital tasks aimed at promoting positive pathways into cyber security careers.

Participants from around the United Kingdom used their digital skills to tackle coding, code breaking and knowledge-based challenges, with winners crowned in the two age categories.

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Taha Abuhamira came top out of around 250 in his age category, winning a Nintendo Switch console and Raspberry Pi 4 setup.

Tim Mulford, Head of Computing at Whitburn Church of England Academy, said: “Taha is a very impressive young man, who works hard in school and has a real passion for computer science. It is fantastic to see Taha’s hard work and determination recognised by this competition.”

The final of the challenge was postponed from 2020 and was held as an online event, because of covid restrictions.

Mr Mulford said the competition in the final was tough, with the participants qualifying from 12 regional events across the country

Competitors completed a number of cyber security challenges, including steganography, python computer coding and using ciphers in the online competition. Taha finished with the highest score to win the 11-14 age group.

He was announced as a winner at an online awards ceremony in February. The event included talks from City of London Assistant Police Commissioner, Angela McLaren and representatives from the Cyber Security and Gaming industries.

Attendees gained an insight to the cyber security industry and tips on how to get into the industry from the speakers.

David Malkin, head of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Cyber Crime Unit, said: “This year has been our most successful Matrix Challenge to date, and there’s no doubt the standard of contestants was higher than we’ve ever seen before. The UK is blessed to have so many talented individuals and a huge well done to the winners.

“The challenge has been proven to educate young people and improve their knowledge around the computer misuse act, as well as how to stay safe online, so each participant will have taken something away from the competition. Equally, the challenge has proven to be a great lead into cyber and digital careers, engaging with young people from a variety of diverse backgrounds."

He added: “Running the Matrix Challenge during the pandemic has presented many unique challenges, and I’m really grateful for the collaborative effort of colleagues in both public and private sector agencies, particularly the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), Toasted Digital, Vodafone and colleagues across the ROCU network, who helped deliver an exciting and informative learning experience to every part of the UK.”

“No doubt the good work of the Matrix Challenge will continue to accelerate in 2021, with plans to deliver new, fresh and exciting content to the platform we hope to see even more talented young people engaged.”

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