GCHQ app will teach your kids encryption

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

December 12, 2014

It said oft said that truth is stranger than fiction, but occasionally things come along that truly make our jaws drop!

Britain’s NSA sidekick, spy agency GCHQ, is responsible for spying on most of the world’s communications (including grabbing millions of explicit webcam images), and is guilty of turning the UK into one of the most surveilled nations in the so-called ‘free world’.

Cryptoy 1

The biggest barrier to such blanket big brother spying on all citizens is for said citizens to encrypt everything they do online, which if enough people did it, would make GCHQ’s (and its partner the NSA’s) job much more difficult.

It is for this reason that GCHQ and the NSA recruit the brightest and best mathematicians as they leave college, using their talents to circumvent all attempts to secure privacy through encryption.

Cryptoy 2

GCHQ’s cynical attempt to inspire an interest in encryption among children should therefore not really come as a surprise. Available on the Google Play app store for tablet devices (and soon to be available in an iPad version), Cryptoy is aimed at teaching kids about encryption,

This fun and educational app teaches you about the mysterious world of cryptography. It helps you to understand ciphers and keys, and enables you to create encrypted messages that you can share with your friends.

Cryptoy 3

Specifically, it is aimed a UK Key Stage 4 students (14 to 16 year olds), and was originally developed for the Cheltenham Science Festival by students on a year’s work-experience placement at GCHQ.

Robert Hannigan, director of GCHQ said,

‘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.

In particular, the Cryptoy app is a colourful, interactive way for students and their teachers to explore the fascinating world of cryptography. The app was developed by GCHQ’s industrial placement students and trialled at a number of science fairs. 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.

Cryptoy 4

The app teaches four encryption techniques: Shift, Substitution, Vigenère, and Enigma,


Cryptoy 5

Hannigan recently lashed out at technology companies’ move towards embracing strong encryption, so it is clear that his motives for supporting this app are not to teach people about how to be more secure…

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