SCOTTISH teenagers are being encouraged to take part in a summer camp – run by the government’s secretive spy agency GCHQ.
Dozens of 16 and 17-year-olds are expected to sign up to the four-day course, which hopes to produce the country’s next generation of online crime fighters.
The CyberFirst Futures camp is designed by government security experts and will give pupils some first-hand experience of defending the country against cyber attacks.
The pilot scheme, the first of its kind in Scotland, is fully funded by GCHQ, the UK’s intelligence agency, and is part of a series of initiatives aimed at encouraging young people to get into cyber security careers.
It is estimated that by 2020 there will be a global shortage of 1.5 million cyber security professionals. The average cost to a company of a cyber attack is £1.4 million per incident.
Martin Beaton, cyber security network integrator for Scotland, said: “If there continues to be a skills shortage then companies will be more open to attack.
“At the moment in Scotland we have demand for these skills, but we don’t have anywhere near the numbers of people prepared to enter cyber security as a career.
“The average salary of someone working in cyber security is £63,000, but that message hasn’t reached schools or parents. There is an ignorance about what the careers are about.”
The course, which takes place at Glasgow Caledonian University in July, will teach teenagers techniques in cyber security, including how to protect their home computer from attack.
“The camp will be fun,” Beaton explained. “The industry already offers huge commercial possibilities that are only going to increase as more and more of our lives move online. ”
As well as the camp, GCHQ will also host a cyber day for 100 girls at Napier University in Edinburgh in June, aiming to bridge the gender gap. Currently only 5 per cent of those working in cyber security are female.
Pupils can also take part in Cyber Games Scotland, run by Cyber Security Challenge UK, which gives teams of pupils their own ciphers which will be shared online with other schools whose students have to try to decode them.
Previous competitions, which has the backing of Skills Development Scotland’s Digital World campaign, have involved a wide range of cyber security activities such as conducting an investigation of a hackers’ hotel room to find passwords to access computer systems.
Claire Gillespie, Key Sector Manager for ICT and digital technology skills at Skills Development Scotland, said: “Engaging young people in cyber related subjects is vital if we are going to have the talent for the future.”