Cybersecurity Spaces: Workshops on cybersecurity for high school students

The challenge to protect companies, citizens and Governments from online threats is more and more complex every day. Higher amount and sophistication of the attacks make it necessary to strengthen the systems. Improving the security of the technologies we use is possible, but in order to achieve it we need qualified professionals with deep knowledge on cybersecurity.

According to CISCO, in 2014 more than one million cybersecurity professionals are needed worldwide. The lack of qualified professionals affects also to Spain. That is why INCIBE is launching initiatives to enhance the appearance, identification and attraction of cybersecurity talent, such as the programs “Cybersecurity Spaces: Workshops on cybersecurity for high school students” and “Advanced online courses on cybersecurity for highly skilled professionals”.

Stimulation of early technological vocation and detection of young talent are key factors for creating cybersecurity professionals of the future. INCIBE has launched the program “Workshops on cybersecurity for high school students”.

The initiative includes practical seminars given by INCIBE to high school students interested in technologies who are starting to set up their professional career. Workshops approach is 100% practical and they promote curiosity and development of technical skills among the target audience. Guidance by cybersecurity experts is crucial, that is why seminars are conducted by a professional who guides students to the solution of practical problems and real situations. Virtual machines and one laptop or PC for every student are provided in order to guarantee the practical approach. Seminars are free for students and high schools, and people who attend the workshop are granted with a certificate issued by INCIBE.

The program includes 8 different workshops. The topic of the seminar is decided by High schools, depending on the interest and previous skills of the students.

Topic
#1 My computer is a zombie
#2 Secure websites programming
#3 Fundamentals of Websites Analysis
#4 Fundamentals of Systems Analysis
#5 Android malware analysis
#6 WiFi security
#7 Espionage and cyber-surveillance
#8 Forensic Windows

 

Phase 1 of the program was launched in 2013 as a pilot. It included 12 workshops and was limited to León province, a geographical area in Spain where INCIBE headquarters are. The success of the initiative and the positive feedback received by both students and teachers supported the continuity and improvement of the program, with the increase of the scope. Accordingly, Phase 2 started the following year and reached nearly 1.600 students nationwide.

Figure 1: Geographical scope for the Program 

Figure 1: Geographical scope for the Program

This initiative is the result of the cooperation among different actors:

  • INCIBE, responsible for the Program for Excellence on Cybersecurity and driving force of the initiative.
  • Ernst & Young, leading Company on Consulting services, provides the expertise, technical knowledge and practical approach.
  • High Schools demand workshops for their students and contribute by providing the location and logistical requirements.
  • Other actors from the Education sphere (such as University teachers, ITC Teachers Associations, ITC Coordinators, etc.) disseminate the program.

 

The Program for Excellence on Cybersecurity within the Digital Trust Plan of the Spanish government’s Digital Agenda states:

Measure 20: Workshops “Cybersecurity Space”

Annual program of support and cybersecurity awareness for high school students.

In this educational environment, teens are expected to acquire, through a mainly practical approach and under the guidance of experts, advanced knowledge of information security, to stimulate the early generation of talent that can be applied in their future careers.

Some outcomes to date include:

  • 84 high schools have participated in the program (12 Phase 1 + 72 Phase 2).
  • Nearly 1.600 Spanish high school students have attended the seminars.
  • Positive feedback 85% of the students conclude that the workshop has been good or very good.

 Figure 2: Results from assessment survey show positive results

Figure 2: Results from assessment survey show positive results

After a positive two-year experience with the program, INCIBE and the rest of the partners are about to launch Phase 3 of the initiative, which is expected to start on the fourth quarter of 2015. The objective for this Phase 3 is the same as previous stages: to provide technical training on cybersecurity to high school students, in order to help guide their professional life towards cybersecurity and to identify young talents. Implementation, nevertheless, will include some improvements in order to maximize the impact and to consider learnings from previous stages.

Key points for this Phase 3 are:

Reinforce program to students (in person training). The number of students attending to workshops will be increased up to nearly 7,000 and the amount of high schools will reach at least 266 centers nationwide.

Create virtual version of the program. INCIBE will create an online version of the eight workshops to be published on YouTube. Contents will be self-administered, thus increasing the target audience.

Create a program for teachers (in person training). The training-for-trainers program aims enabling teachers for the conduction of the eight workshops. Between 1,000 and 1,500 ITC teachers will take part in the program, which means that their students (potentially some 25,000 – 75,000) will receive training on cybersecurity in the medium term.

Start partnership with Spanish Universities. INCIBE and the U-tad (Centro Universitario de Tecnología y Arte Digital) have signed an agreement by virtue of which INCIBE shares the content of the workshops and U-tad offers the seminars to their students through the initiative “Hacking School”, thus increasing the number of young students reached by the initiative.

Stablish effective mechanisms to ensure the identification and recruitment of talent. In order to take advantage of the full potential of the students, it is important that they can receive information on further educational and professional options on cybersecurity. INCIBE will build a bridge to their future by providing information on initiatives such as Scholarships for cybersecurity studies, Advanced online courses on cybersecurity, Cybersecurity events and contests “Cybercamp”, etc.

About INCIBE

While ultimately accountable to the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism (MINETUR), the Spanish National Cybersecurity Institute (INCIBE) reports directly to the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Information Society (SETSI). It is the center of reference for the development of cybersecurity and digital trust among the general public, the Spanish academic and research network (RedIRIS) and companies, particularly in strategic sectors.

The aim of this government-supported center of excellence is to develop cybersecurity as a means of transforming society and creating opportunities for innovation. INCIBE is leading a range of national and international cybersecurity projects involving research, the provision of services and the coordination of expert teams.

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