Most of the time, when you hear about GCHQ, Britain’s answer to the NSA, it’s in the same sentence about mass surveillance or cellphone hacking. But this time around, the Brit spies have made an app that teaches little kiddies how totally fantastic encryption is. The “fun and educational” Android app teaches you about basic encryption techniques, and then lets you share them with your friends, who get to try and decode whatever you’ve hidden. Fun! But, also, painfully ironic.
GCHQ has released its own “fun, free, educational” Android app to teach secondary school students about cryptography. The Cryptoy app, which has no permissions to access confidential information on Android devices, helps children understand basic encryption techniques and create their own encoded messages. The government hopes the app could help find the next generation of cyber-spies. Minister for the cabinet office Francis Maude said that it was a “creative solution in the hunt for expertise, but with a 21st century spin.” Cryptoy is only available on Android at the moment, but an iOS version for iPads will be available in 2015, GCHQ said. It is aimed at Key Stage 4 students and covers both the theory and practice of cryptography as well its history. The idea was first developed by GCHQ’s industrial placement students as a test project for the Cheltenham Science Festival, but growing interest from teachers to use the app in schools persuaded GCHQ to make it publicly available. The spy agency said examples of cryptography used in the app are from an “earlier era” but were still relevant to today’s techniques.