Scots pupils urged to become next generation of cyber crime fighters

From left, St Kentigerns Academy pupils Amelia Hurdy, Harrison Dunne, Adam Walker, Kamil Golor and Clara O Callaghan launch the cyber skills programme. Picture: Chris Watt
From left, St Kentigerns Academy pupils Amelia Hurdy, Harrison Dunne, Adam Walker, Kamil Golor and Clara O Callaghan launch the cyber skills programme. Picture: Chris Watt
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From businesses to families, we are all sharing increasing amounts of information online.

The upside is we get to enjoy the convenience of services such as internet banking and shopping. But rising popularity also means they are being increasingly targeted by criminals keen to steal the vast amounts of personal data contained within.

Stopping the online crooks is the work of the growing digital security industry - a sector with no shortage of work or well-paid opportunities for those with the right skills.

Now young Scots are being encouraged to take advantage of this cyber crime fighting boom.

A new initiative from Skills Development Scotland (SDS), aimed at pupils from S1-S3, hopes to create a new generation of white hat hackers - so called as they use their skills for good.

Launched at this week’s STEM Festival at Glasgow Science Centre, the Cyber Skills Programme will see a series of events to create the online crime fighting “superheroes” of the future.

As well as meeting experts in the field, pupils will learn how to hack and protect passwords and how to rob a bank – in this case an electronic piggy bank - in a series of special live and recorded online tutorials.

READ MORE: Cyber attacks ‘a threat to Scottish businesses’

Around 13.8 million people - almost one quarter of the population - were affected by cyber crime in the UK in 2015, an annual increase of 10 per cent.

The risks for businesses are clear - data loss can have an immediate effect on reputation, result in legal action, and have a negative impact on shareholder value.

With the average cost to large UK firms is £4.1 million per incident, capable security experts are highly prized.

The SDS programme, which is supported by the Scottish Government, will also work with employers - including Police Scotland and FanDuel - to make them aware of the training programme and the skills its graduates will offer.

Gordon McGuiness, director of enterprise networks at SDS, said: “The cyber industry is of critical importance to our online society and will play an increasing role in the years to come.

“There will be a wide variety of exciting jobs available to today’s youngsters and we need to ensure they have the skills to make the most of these opportunities.

“There are a number of ways into this dynamic and fast moving sector. A lot of work has taken place to ensure there will be a variety of routes into careers in the cyber industry.

“A lot of work has taken place to ensure there are a variety of routes into careers in digital and tech, including new Foundation Apprenticeships which provide real-world industry experience for kids while they are still at school.”

John Swinney, deputy first minister, said: “We are very pleased to support Skills Development Scotland increase cyber awareness and skills amongst young people. We hope the programme will trigger interest in the career opportunities the digital world presents.”

The importance of cyber security was widely illustrated in May this year when more than 200,000 organisations in 150 countries were affected by the WannaCry cyber attack.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if you hold any sort of data you will be the target of a hacker at some point,” Gerry Grant, chief ethical hacker at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), told The Scotsman.

“I think a lot of people are still under the impression criminals are only looking for a big payout and will only target the larger organisations.

“In reality, it tends to be smaller businesses that are targeted.”