News & Analysis

Australian Computing Academy launches cyber security skills program for high school students

- February 20, 2019 2 MIN READ
cyber security

The Australian Computing Academy (ACA), a division of the University of Sydney, has launched the Schools Cyber Security Challenges, which will see cyber security taught to Australian high school students in years 7 to 10.

Launched with $1.35 million in funding from ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB), Commonwealth Bank, BT, and the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (AustCyber), the program will be led by the ACA and taught in hand with the Digital Technologies Curriculum.

It consists of four interactive challenges, the first of which introduces students to cyber security fundamentals and encourages students to think from an attacker’s perspective. It asks students to hack and collect personal information from the social media profiles of various characters, including simulated banking, email, and online shopping accounts.

The three remaining challenges, which will launch over the course of the year, will focus on data transmission and encryption, wired and wireless network security, and web application security.

Michelle Price, CEO of AustCyber, said,  “It is critical for Australia’s economic prosperity that we build a highly skilled and educated cyber security workforce, as well as ensure all students, parents and teachers across the country have access to cyber security resources aligned to the Digital Technologies curriculum.

“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.”

A report released by AustCyber late last year found that Australia needs around 18,000 more cyber security professionals by 2026 if the sector is to be globally competitive. The report added that beyond the major skills shortage, Australia also faces a challenge in the lack of alignment in research and commercialisation.

The benefits of growing Australia’s cyber security sector, according to the report, are significant: US$131 billion was spent on cyber security in 2017, and an increase of 88 percent to US$250 billion is expected by 2026.

In turn, AustCyber believes that Australia’s revenue from cyber security could triple from $2 billion to $6 billion over the next decade if the key challenges are addressed.

Bridging the skills shortage is, of course, one of the biggest challenges.

Associate Professor James Curran, academic director of the ACA, said there is a significant lack of both awareness and skills around cyber security, among students and in society in general.

“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,” he 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. Students will also be presented with a new perspective on pursuing a potential career in cyber security.”

Image: Michelle Price.

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