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UK school students could be the next cybersecurity whiz-kids

UK secondary school students will be taught cybersecurity, due an increasing skills gap in the industry.

Leading industry experts have called for cybersecurity to be made a part of the curriculum due to the skills gap which is said to increase over the next 20 years.

The Cabinet Office and the National Crime Agency are funding the venture, and resources will include case studies of international cybercrime attacks as well as cryptography and malware. Lessons will cover such topics as the importance of firewalls and key malware threats currently facing the UK.

These resources have been developed and designed to allow teachers to include cybersecurity lessons not only in computing but traditional curricular subjects, providing schoolchildren valuable skills in a range of areas. Students will also learn where they can take these skills, gaining a deeper understanding of career opportunities within the industry.

Knowing how to operate in the digital environment and understanding the pitfalls of the internet are fundamental to the way we live, says Stephanie Daman, CEO of the Cyber Security Challenge UK.

Daman also acknowledges the skills gap. “It’s where we have fallen down in the past," she says. "We hadn’t planned at a sufficiently early stage, we hadn’t primed the pipeline. That’s why we have a skills gap now.”

In partnership with BIS, GCHQ and the Cabinet Office, the organisation has also recently launched an open online course (MOOC) that is open to people of all ages and was developed by Open University.

The lessons launched in schools such as Sedgehill School, however, have been specifically developed for students 11-16.

Ken Mackenzie, head of Sedgehill Schools, says the school signed up to give their students the opportunity to expand their digital skills and to prepare them for the changing work force.

“We feel computing is a particular strength at the school and we work hard to make sure we are presenting students with a full range of opportunities,” he says.