GCHQ launches educational cryptography app

December 12, 2014 // 12:51 p.m.

Tags: #android #app #cipher #cryptography #education #encryption #intelligence #spy

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK's primary intelligence and security organisation, has launched an Android app with which it hopes to encourage children to learn about ciphers and encryption.

Dubbed Cryptoy, the GCHQ's latest public software release was created by students on an industrial year placement at the secretive organisation. Originally built to demonstrate various classic encryption techniques at the Cheltenham Science Festival, but is now getting a general release in an effort to encourage more children into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

'Building maths and cyber skills in the younger generation is essential for maintaining the cyber security of the UK and growing a vibrant digital economy. That is why I am keen for GCHQ to give something back through its work with school and universities,' claimed GCHQ director Robert Hannigan at the launch. 'In particular, the Cryptoy app is a colourful, interactive way for students and their teachers to explore the fascinating world of cryptography. I hope it will inspire further study of this key topic, which has played such an important part in our past and is an invaluable part of our future.'

Those wondering if GCHQ is providing people with uncrackable encryption will be unsurprised to hear that the cryptographic ciphers on offer are all relatively weak. The app provides access to four ciphers at present: a simple shift cipher, a marginally more complex substitution cipher, the Vigenère cipher and the infamous World War 2 cipher Enigma. Users can code and decode messages in all four ciphers, learn about their origins and find out how they work.

Cryptoy is currently exclusive to Android tablets - with wider support promised in the near future - and is free from the Google Play Store.
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