From education to employment

Free, online training programme aimed at inspiring the next generation of cyber security stars extends scope to include students aged 13

Cyber Discovery: UK government-backed cyber security programme for teenagers returns for third year

The highly successful, DCMS-backed online cyber security training programme, Cyber Discovery, today launches for a third year across the UK. Delivered for DCMS (the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) by global IT security training organisation SANS Institute, Cyber Discovery aims to help close the UK’s cyber security skills gap by inspiring teenagers to pursue a career in the industry.

This year, the programme will build on its previous successes, and is opening its doors to students aged 13 for the first time.

Over 46,000 young people aged between 14 and 18 have already taken part in the Cyber Discovery programme over the past two years, which uses an online game platform with hundreds of hours of challenges and teaching, to educate teenagers about the skills needed to be a cyber security expert in a fun, safe, and challenging setting. Cyber Discovery was launched as part of the UK’s National Cyber Security Strategy and sits within the CyberFirst portfolio of skills development initiatives, part of the £1.9 billion investment made by the UK government to help young people explore their passion for technology and nurture their talent.

Cyber Security Minister Nigel Adams said:

“Our tech sector is one of the UK’s greatest strengths but to support its continued success we need a skilled and diverse workforce. Cyber Discovery has already inspired thousands of young people to think about a career in the cyber industry and I hope this year’s students will also have fun learning about the opportunities on offer.”

The £20 million Cyber Discovery programme teaches students a broad range of disciplines including digital forensics, penetration testing, defending against web attacks, cryptography and ethics. The programme is comprised of four phases: an initial assessment stage, CyberStart Assess; CyberStart Game and CyberStart Essentials, designed to enhance the skills of those who have made it through the initial assessment stage. The top performers then attend CyberStart Elite camps, designed to further prepare them for a career in the cyber profession by providing industry-leading training, career advice, soft skills development and a Capture the Flag contest.

James Lyne, CTO at SANS Institute and one of the creators of the programme, said:

“I have been amazed by the level of young talent coming out of the Cyber Discovery programme – and so excited for the launch of year 3, with even more students learning about the fascinating arena of cyber security. The current inability to find enough skilled people needed to secure our world’s future technology and data is a really scary prospect. With all the technology controlling our utilities, financial markets, business data and even our homes we desperately need to make sure our future cyber defenders are trained and ready to thwart the cyber criminals. Time and again over the past couple of years, I have seen students who originally had no idea they would be any good at security demonstrating amazing capabilities, so the key takeaway for me is to have a go! You might just be what we need to stop the bad guys, and have a lot of fun doing it!”

The initiative is also preparing teenagers for the world of professional cyber security work, by exposing them to problems that are faced by security professionals on a daily basis, and giving them the skills to enter industry early, or to learn more about cyber security in higher education.

Daniel Milnes, who took part in Cyber Discovery in year two, has already gone on to secure a job in cyber security straight out of school. Many of this year’s Elite students are also soon to take a coveted GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) examination – a qualification that is normally achieved by professionals with significant cyber security experience in the workplace.

Daniel said of his exposure to the programme:

“Cyber Discovery has really been revolutionary for me and my future plans. As I came to the end of my GCSEs, I was expecting two more uneventful years of education before beginning a career in systems administration, but then I attended a presentation about Cyber Discovery. I decided to sign up as just something to pass the time, but quickly found myself in a whirlwind of education on topics I’d never even considered before. When I started, I couldn’t have told you the first thing about web application security, cryptology, digital forensics, and the countless other topics covered, so to be able to learn about and practise them for free was amazing. I’ve made friends through the programme, pushed my existing skills to their limits, and learnt so many more, so much so that I’m now working as a Cyber Security Consultant, which is something I would never have dreamed of before Cyber Discovery.”

Registration and completion of the first assessment phase closes on 25th October 2019. You can find out more here.

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