Cybersecurity For Schoolchildren

By on 22/12/2014
Cryptoy - cybersecurity for kids

As the end of the year approaches, governments around the world are being constantly reminded of the multiple online threats targeting both governments and businesses. In the US, Sony’s security has been breached, spawning a massive release of emails, while in Afghanistan it appeared that for several days in mid December the government’s official websites were infected by malware from a foreign country.

Against this background, the government in the UK is progressing with its Cyber Security Strategy. The Imitation Game is still playing in cinemas, reminding the world of Englishman Alan Turing and Bletchley Park’s role in computing and cryptography for national defence. Building on that pedigree, the government offices of the Cabinet Office, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and GCHQ are working to increase the already 40,000 people working in the UK’s cyber industry.

They are focusing the next wave of effort on bringing in younger people, aiming at students and even schoolchildren. Children have always enjoyed making up secret messages and codes, writing on paper with ‘invisible ink’ and so on. The British government has taken that to a higher technological level and launched Cryptoy which, in a sign of the times, is available as a free app online.

The Android app, itself designed by students on placement at GCHQ, teaches children encryption techniques so they can learn early about how to work with, say, the Substitution or Vigenère encryption techniques. They can then pass these messages on to their friends who can see if they can crack the code. How teachers will react if they intercept one of these encrypted messages remains to be seen.

For older students, there are more grants for colleges and universities to improve cybersecurity education and learning. There are new ‘cyber camps’ and mentoring schemes to help computing graduates gain practical experience with a view to a career in cybersecurity. There is also a virtual hub to inspire students, new cybersecurity careers resources and more, all marking the third anniversary of the UK’s Cyber Security Strategy.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: ‘Over the past three years we have taken a strategic approach to improving cyber security, working with others to deliver schools programmes, certified six Masters degrees, two centres for doctoral learning and 11 Academic Centres of Excellence.

‘As part of this government’s long-term economic plan, we want to ensure that Britain is one of the safest places to do business online.’

About Graham Scott

Graham is an experienced editor and publisher and an award-winning writer. He has travelled extensively and is interested in world cultures.

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