GCHQ launches Cryptoy mobile app to teach cryptography

Pierluigi Paganini December 15, 2014

Cryptoy is the free educational app about cryptography designed by GCHQ for use by secondary school students and their teachers.

The British Intelligence agency GCHQ has launched “Cryptoy”, an Android mobile app that was designed to encourage youngsters to tackle emerging cyber security threats, the Agency made it available to download today.

The Cryptoy mobile app was developed by STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) students on an industrial year placement at GCHQ and was introduced and announced by the GCHQ at the Cheltenham Science Festival.

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The app was Launched at the third anniversary of the UK Cyber Security Strategy to demonstrate the great interest of the Government in the cyber security.

The app is designed mainly to induce youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 into trying their abilities in cryptography and code-breaking, according to GCHQ the mobile Cryptoy app will help its users to explore the fundamentals of encryption methods, teach the codes of the past, and will allow the creation of their own encrypted messages.

Cryptoy is a fun, free, educational app about cryptography, designed by GCHQ for use by secondary school students and their teachers.” states a blog post published by the Agency.”

The Cryptoy mobile app allows its users to share encoded messages, via social media or email, by using four different cypher schema :

  • Shift
  • Substitution
  • Vigenère
  • Enigma

The messages can be shared with friends that can use the mobile app to decoded them. The GCHQ has developed the mobile app to introduce young people to subjects like computer science, cryptography and maths.

 “If we’re going to get the next generation of security experts, we need to be encouraging them to take up these subjects,” said a spokesperson from GCHQ at the conference. “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,” Robert Hannigan, Director GCHQ, said. “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.”

Of course, many skeptics have thought that the app is a surveillance tool, but the GCHQ replied that the Cryptoy app only asks for very limited permissions and is not at all a spy tool.

The Cryptoy app is available for free download on Google Play store, the iOS version is announced for release in 2015.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  GCHQ, Cryptoy mobile app)

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