Sunday, October 24, 2021

UK wartime codebreaking center becomes cyber education college

BLETCHLEY, ENGLAND: It was once the home of Britain’s codebreakers during World War Two. Now more than 70 years later, Bletchley Park is preparing to host the UK’s first national college of cyber education, with a first intake of students starting in September 2018.

Work is under way to revamp several derelict buildings on the site where mathematician Alan Turing cracked Nazi Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma code.

The new school for 16- to 18-year-olds, which will sit beside the historical attraction and the National Museum of Computing, will take 100 students in its first year. Forty percent of their curriculum will consist of cyber studies.

The plan for the school, which will be part publicly and part privately funded, was unveiled by Qufaro, which calls itself a not-for-profit body formed by cyber security experts, as part of an initiative to establish a UK national cyber security hub.

“Bletchley Park we felt was a natural home for a cyber security college because it’s building on the innovation and the work that took place in the Second World War, bringing it up to date and making it relevant again,” said Tim Reynolds, deputy chairman of the National Museum of Computing and a director of Qufaro.

Selection for places will be through talent spotting and an entrance exam. Qufaro expects 90 percent of students to board at the school.

“What we are looking to do is to wrap around all of the expertise that currently exists along with the educational support that they are going to need, to ensure that they’re either industry ready or university ready,” Reynolds said.

“This will be a one-stop-shop where the outcome, or output in terms of students, will be ready for whatever path they choose to take.”

While Bletchley Park attracts visitors, some of its buildings are in need of work, with smashed windows and peeling paint.

Among those who have helped save it from disrepair is Margaret Sale, whose late husband Tony led the rebuilding of a replica of Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, used to decipher codes sent from the Lorenz Cipher, a machine used by the Nazis.

The 84-year-old, who still volunteers at the National Museum of Computing, hopes the new college will help preserve the Bletchley Park legacy.

Asked about the difference between the site’s codebreaking past and the college’s future work, she said: “It will have a different feel because the world is so different. Now we know what is in people’s speeches before they even sometimes know it themselves.”

“So much has changed … But basically it’s still the same thing. It’s making sure that you are one step in advance of your enemies.”

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