With the cyber world becoming increasingly complex and multifaceted, individuals, businesses and schools are at risk of becoming compromised by malware, ransomware and a host of other online threats.
Responding to this, governments, organisations and communities are working hard to ensure that citizens are both aware and protected when using the Internet – and the challenge is a significant one.
According to AustCyber’s Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan, Australia will need 18,000 more cyber security workers by 2026.
Launched last week by the Hon Karen Andrews MP, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Schools Cyber Security Challenges program aims to address this gap by providing cyber security education to all Year 7-10 students for the first time.
The $1.35m national program will be headed up by the Australian Computing Academy (ACA) – a University of Sydney centre – and will be taught in conjunction with the compulsory Digital Technologies Curriculum.
The unique collaborative effort is being spearheaded along with AustCyber (Australian Cyber Security Growth Network), ANZ, Commonwealth Bank (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB), Westpac and BT (British Telecom), who have provided security experts to help with the program’s development.
The ACA’s academic director, associate professor James Curran, and one of the original authors of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, said there is a “significant lack of awareness and skills around cyber security, both in society in general and amongst students”.
“The Schools Cyber Security Challenges addresses this gap by fostering security-conscious students who are well equipped to deal with cyber security challenges both in their personal lives, and later, in the workforce,” they said.
“Teachers and parents concerned about cyber security can now be confident that their students and children will be vigilant in all aspects of their digital lives by participating in the Schools Cyber Security Challenges.”
Curran added that students will also be presented with a new perspective on pursuing a potential career in cyber security.
‘Critical for Australia’s economic prosperity’
CEO of AustCyber, Michelle Price, said it is “critical for Australia’s economic prosperity” that a highly skilled and educated cyber security workforce is built.
“We also need to ensure all students, parents and teachers across the country have access to cyber security resources aligned to the Digital Technologies curriculum,” Price said.
“By focusing on Australian students, Cyber Challenges provides an important foundational step towards resolving skills shortages and supporting a sustained skills pipeline for generations to come.”
Security leaders from ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and BT attending the launch, explained why the Cyber Challenges program is critical not only for cyber safety generally, but to also help address the cyber security skills shortage in the workforce.
The remaining three challenges are scheduled to launch over 2019 and will focus on: Data transmission and encryption; Wired and wireless network security; and Web application security. Teachers are encouraged to visit the Cyber Challenges website and get involved in the initiative.