Inspiring Generation Z to become Scotland’s future cyber crime fighters

Participants in last year’s Cyber Security Challenge UK

The hunt is on for the nation’s best young codebreakers as Cyber Games Scotland launches its 2017 competition during a week of dedicated digital skills events run by organisations across the country. Now open for registrations, Cyber Games Scotland is part of a wider drive to inspire more young people to pick a career fighting cyber crime.

The competition tests teams of 12 to 16 year-olds in scenarios designed to develop skills in demand from the cyber security industry . Last year, 176 teams from schools across Scotland registered to ‘crack each other’s code’. The Games will kick off in May with a week of virtual code-breaking challenges. Teams will compete for a chance to win a place in the face-to-face final in the autumn and the winners will be recognised at this year’s National Cyber Security Awards.

Figures released by security software firm Norton suggest that 13.8 million consumers were targeted by cyber attacks last year. The Scottish Government’s Cyber Resilience Strategy – launched in 2015 – aims to make Scotland a world-leader in cyber resilience by 2020. A key part of this strategy is to educate and train young people to raise awareness of the threat and inspire the future cyber security workforce.

“The UK has a world-class cyber security sector but we are facing a shortage of skilled specialists who are needed to tackle the growing threat from hackers and ensure Scotland’s cyber resilience,” said Dr Martin Beaton, the Cyber Security Network integrator for Scotland. “There is huge demand for young talent and initiatives like Cyber Games Scotland are a key way for us to attract, develop and nurture our future cyber security workforce. We have an ongoing programme of events and initiatives which is building momentum and raising awareness of the opportunities in the sector.”

Dr Janet Brown, chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, added: “In order to face the challenges presented by an increasingly connected and online society, people need to be trained, recruited, and working in cyber security roles. Our portfolio of National Progression Awards in cyber security provide an excellent entry point for learners into the sector. The awards have been developed in partnership with industry experts to capture the interest of learners and provide an excellent starting point for those keen to develop their skills and embark upon a career in digital security.”

Young people with an interest in cyber security again have the opportunity to attend free National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) summer camps in Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are two residential options available – CyberFirst Defenders and CyberFirst Advanced – as well as CyberFirst Futures, a female only non-residential course. The CyberFirst Bursary scheme, inspired and led by NCSC, will open for applications this month. It offers a £4,000 per year bursary, alongside guaranteed work experience during summer holidays. The bursary is available to UK nationals studying STEM courses at university and the scheme aims to place winners into cyber security roles upon graduation.

There are also plans to expand the successful Cyber Security Christmas Lectures series, which has been running since 2012, to include events in London and Orkney. Registration is now open for the free lectures, which are delivered by leading cyber security experts and reached around 2,700 young people in five cities last December. The lectures give school pupils and their teachers the opportunity to delve into hot topics such as ethical hacking, digital forensics and data security in a fun and engaging way.

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