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Ayman Kampoori, a pupil at British School Al Khubairat, has cracked five British Intelligence Services codes designed by top cryptographers within three weeks. Sammy Dallal / The National
Ayman Kampoori, a pupil at British School Al Khubairat, has cracked five British Intelligence Services codes designed by top cryptographers within three weeks. Sammy Dallal / The National

Abu Dhabi pupil, 13, cracks British Intelligence Service codes as part of competition

A British-Iraqi student cracked the code developed by cryptographers, mathematicians and advanced technical researchers as part of the 'Can You Find It?' competition.

ABU DHABI // An Abu Dhabi schoolboy, 13, has cracked five British Intelligence Services codes designed by top cryptographers.

Ayman Kampoori, a pupil at British School Al Khubairat, cracked the codes developed by the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, within three weeks.

The codes were posted online by GCHQ on September 11 as part of a campaign to find and recruit the brightest minds around the world.

“Code breaking and programming are my favourite hobbies. I develop iPhone applications and use them on my phone,” said Ayman, a British-Iraqi.

“When I grow up I want to study computing or programming. I am also thinking that when I am 18 I will do the challenge again and work with GCHQ.

“I read about the competition and immediately started to break the encrypted codes posted. At the beginning it was very hard and I told my dad, who tried but also failed.

“But then I cracked the first of five codes and told my computer teacher at school – and he also failed.”

The Grade 9 pupil used an advanced software program called Mathematica to help him break the codes.

GCHQ works with Britain’s Security Service, MI5, and the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

Its “Can You Find It?” competition has been designed to challenge experienced and self-taught entrants.

Jane Jones, head of resourcing at GCHQ, said the codes in the competition were no easy nuts to crack.

“It’s a puzzle but it’s also a serious test,” Ms Jones said. “The jobs on offer here are vital to protecting national security.”

Ayman’s father, Nazar Kampoori, said he knew his son could do it.

“However, I did not know how long it would take him to break the codes,” Mr Kampoori said.

This is GCHQ’s second public recruiting campaign. The previous one attracted more than 95 million hits to its website from more than 3.2 million unique users.

Successful decrypters over 18 can be picked up by the agency, earning between Dh152,000 and Dh351,000. The competition ends on Monday.

“Winners could be following in the prestigious footsteps of computer pioneer Alan Turing, who during the Second World War helped lead the efforts to provide vital intelligence for the Allies by deciphering the messages encrypted by the German Enigma machine,” GCHQ said.

Results will be released on November 11.  

Winners also enter a prize draw to win a Google Nexus 7 tablet or a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized computer used to learn programming.


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