Cyber security skills sessions for Tayside school pupils at Abertay
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Hundreds of secondary school children from across Tayside will descend on Abertay on Wednesday, as the SICSA Cyber-Security High School Christmas Lecture comes to town.
Abertay and Dundee University academics, as well as leading industry figures and members of Police Scotland, will give Tayside’s teens a behind-the-scenes look at a world that is so often surrounded in secrecy.
Using interactive demos - and covering everything from password security to digital footprints - the idea is to inspire the next generation of cyber security experts so that the looming skills gap can be plugged and our security ensured.
Martin Beaton, who set up the lecture series, explains:
“Cyber attacks have been categorised by the UK Government as a Tier One threat to our national security. On top of that, the National Audit Office has stated that there is a 20 year skills gap we need to find people for.
“Given this desperate situation - and with industry willing to pay high salaries for cyber security skills - you might think that computer science is a popular subject. But it is barely taught in schools. In fact, the number of classes - as well as the number of computer science teachers - has actually dwindled over the past five years. And we really need to do something about that.
“We started the lectures for school pupils back in 2012 and - although it was a last minute affair - it was a roaring success. The first tranche of tickets were snapped up in only a few days, so we made a second session available, which similarly sold out.
“Last year was even better, with 3000 school pupils attending across the 12 sessions that we ran. Industry, academia and Police Scotland all contributed considerable amounts of time for free and the feedback we got from schools was tremendous.”
Dr Natalie Coull, Lecturer in Ethical Hacking at Abertay University – who will be involved in each lecture – said:
“Wednesday will be a great chance for local school pupils and teachers to get a real insight into what Ethical Hacking and cybersecurity are all about.
“It’s a fascinating sector to work in, but far too few people know what it involves and how computer science can lead to a great career.
“We’ve got a worrying skills shortage looming in an age where it has never been more important to be cyber secure, so I hope these lectures inspire some of those in the audience to think about becoming ethical hackers when they leave school.
“To help get them thinking, we’ll have demos set up to show them some of the common techniques used by cyber criminals. They’ll get to see a ‘real’ hacker at work, who’ll show them how easy it is to work out a member of the audience’s password and get them thinking about ways in which their own passwords could be more secure.
“We’ll also show them how you can trace someone’s digital footprint using the GPS data on a person’s phone. Tweets and Instagram posts, for example, can tell a cyber criminal much more than you might at first think, because they show where that person’s been that day, what they had for dinner or where they went on holiday.
“A lot of the time people just don’t think about the implications of this, so as well as giving them an idea of how they could use these skills to prevent cyber crime in a future career, the aim of the lectures is also to get them thinking about their own safety and security online.”
As well as demos from Abertay, NCC Group will be showing the pupils how it is possible to hack without computers, and Dundee University will go through some of the codebreaking techniques used by the likes of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park.
Police Scotland and the Cyber Security Challenge UK will also be involved.
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