Last month, seven Girl Scouts from Central Maryland were given a unique opportunity to solve a mystery, Nancy Drew style, but with a modern, cyber twist.
Vera Kilson, 14, a Senior Girl Scout from Troop 476 in Jessup, was one of the lucky seven girl scouts who saved the day by recovering the digital version of the original Girl Scout Cookie Recipe that had been hacked online. A Girl Scout for eight years, Vera received her invitation to help “crack” the case, via email, and immediately sprung into action.
“In all reality, my phone pinged, I looked at the email, saw “cyber security”, and instantly said “I’m in,” Vera said. “Cyber security was something my mother introduced me to, and helping people is one thing that I enjoy, and personally, I can never resist a good Nancy Drew book — I’m on twenty-nine right now — so I was all in for a mystery.”
To participate in the cyber event, Vera had to answer her electronic mail promptly.
“I believe I was the first one to respond because Ms. Apple replied ‘Wow, that was fast!’, so just call me Speedy Gonzales,” she said.
The “tampering” (and recovery) of the digital recipe took place in the Raytheon Cyber Operations, Development and Evaluation (CODE) Center, a state-of-the-art cybersecurity range in Dulles, Virginia, where the would-be sleuths would aspire to break into cybersecurity, after breaking out of an escape room by solving a series of puzzles to unlock the vault where the cookie recipe is hidden.
“When we got there, the first thing the guides did was lead us to a conference room for lunch where we sat down to eat and went over the agenda for the day,” Vera said. “We were in some rooms at Raytheon not generally open to the public. We had to have visitors passes to be allowed entry.”
And so, the scene was set.
“Someone had hacked into the database containing the Girl Scout cookie recipe and replaced it with a tuna salad recipe,” Vera said. “Our goal was to get it back without setting off any booby traps.”
The Girl Scouts were given a presentation to set the stage and packets with information to help them solve the mystery. They were also materials available in the escape room to assist them as they worked as a team to reach their goal.
“I really liked how everyone worked together on this one,” Vera said.
“No arguments, no bickering, we were all just helping each other out and using our talents to break through the challenges. We didn’t even set off any booby traps and had the lowest completion time, it took some groups an hour or two, it only took us thirty of 45 minutes.”
During the final minutes of the challenge a last-minute glitch threatened to stall their escape at best. None of the girls knew how to open a combination lock, the last step needed to complete their escape.
“I guess none of the other girls had to ever worry about lockers, so they weren’t sure,” Vera guessed.
“I eventually went up there, said let me try, and got it open. Well, not really. I unlocked it, but I didn’t really open it. The lock was still stuck on the door, so Paige gave it a hard yank and it finally popped open. We had done it.”
The mock-event was held in support of Girl Scouts’ ongoing efforts to generate interest in computer science and cybersecurity while building collaborative thinking, leadership skills and cyber knowledge as more women are needed in the cyber security field. The program at Raytheon’s Cyber Operations was instrumental in the development of the first national Girl Scout Cyber Challenge scheduled to launch next year.
“I would definitely do it again and I would recommend it to younger girls so that they can have the chance to experience the things that they can do in the future,” Vera said.
“I really want everyone to experience these kind of things, and the jobs they can get into that fit with their interests and what they enjoy because really, McDonald’s can’t take everybody.”
To submit news for Severn, Hanover, Jessup, Harmans, Fort George G. Meade and Maryland City, contact Sharon P. Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org.