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by David Braue

New cybersecurity curriculum designed to pique school students’ interest early

Feb 21, 20193 mins
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Cyber security has officially joined the high-school curriculum, with industry and government officials banding together to support a $1.35m cybersecurity education program that will be delivered to students in Years 7 to 10 for the first time.

Designed to be delivered alongside the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum, The Schools Cyber Security Challenges program is built around four purpose-built challenges designed to foster students’ interest in real-world cybersecurity challenges as they progress through their schooling.

Released this week, the first challenge has been designed to teach information-security concepts form the hacker’s point of view – reinforcing the importance of strong passwords and explaining how private information can be exploited and abused online. Students are directed to try compromising the accounts of fictitious personalities based on profiles created in simulated social-media sites and smartphone apps.

The curriculum has been backed by industry giants including the Big Four banks, British Telecom, and industry-development body the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (AustCyber).

The program “provides an opportunity to build greater curiosity and passion for cybersecurity amongst young Australians, particularly females,” ANZ CISO Lynwen Connick said at the launch of the new program.

Women have traditionally been a tough target for cybersecurity recruitment, with one Australian Computer Society study pegging female participation in ICT at just 28 percent across the entire industry and industry figures concerned that recruitment efforts have failed to resonate with women who have a different mindset to the problem-solving that ICT requires.

AustCyber CEO Michelle Price was on hand to ring in the new curriculum, calling the new resources “an important foundational step towards resolving skills shortages and supporting a sustained skills pipeline for generations to come.”

Filling that skills pipeline has become increasingly urgent given that AustCyber has projected Australia will need 18,000 more cybersecurity workers by 2026 – but ICT-related university course enrolments have slid steadily as this century progresses.

“Australia is facing a skills shortage in cyber security and we must inspire more young Australians to join the cyber workforce,” Commonwealth Bank of Australia CISO Pete Steel said. “To do this, we need to equip them with the foundational STEM skills and cyber literacy they need to embark on pathways that lead to careers in cyber security and technology.”

BT Australasia managing director Tim Cavill called the program “a tangible step forward in addressing the cyber skills shortage in Australia”, noting that the program was part of a broader global effort to “raise cyber awareness among school-age children across the globe.”

The program will launch three more challenges throughout the year, with topics including data transmission and encryption; wired and wireless network security; and Web application security.