For some schoolchildren today, technology has been in and around their lives for as long as they can remember. About 9 out of 10 households have access to the internet and many students own their own smartphones. It’s imperative to equip them with the necessary knowledge to keep them safe when browsing the web for leisure and work. What is the role and responsibility of schools in teaching cybersecurity?

Local police do come into schools to raise awareness of local crime to schoolchildren. Yet, cybersecurity experts aren’t doing the same for cyber-attacks on the same scale. There is still naivety or a subconscious ignorance when it comes to the protection of one’s digital presence. The appearance of physical crimes, such as theft, may not present themselves in the same way as digital crimes do. However, theft in the physical sense is becoming a silent entity in the digital world. This is not the same in schools or in the workplace.

Cybersecurity and the National Curriculum

cybersecurity careersWith an increased teacher and student reliance on internet accessibility, the need to deliver cybersecurity skills to schoolchildren is more significant than ever. Worryingly, schools aren’t being aggressive enough in forcing through a change for it to be a core lesson. So, whether it will be a module in as part of IT or a standalone subject altogether, remains unclear. Delivering this knowledge and skillset could well lead to increased interest in the subject as a whole and inspire career choices.

A survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance reveals that 91% of teachers, 92% of tech coordinators, and 99% of administrators believe this should be taught in schools. Despite this majority, the survey also finds a huge divide between perceptions of how well and how often cyber safety is taught today.

With those in the education sector already questioning the delivery of the subject, effective cybersecurity lessons need to go beyond just raising awareness.  Example lesson aims could be:

  • Learning how to identify phishing scams as a great foundation lesson
  • Spotting the differences between genuine and scam emails — through reinforced learning, children will actively learn the tell-tale signs of a scam email
  • Understanding the importance of software updates — this is vital to prevent scammers from getting in through out-of-date software

Learning how to spot a potential attack is one thing. Knowing how to set up a digital defence is key.

The vastness of the internet

The age at which children are accessing the internet is getting younger and younger. While it places considerable pockets of knowledge at their disposal, it also exposes them to the dangers that loiter as anonymous online identities. Companies are falling behind in protecting users online, so it makes sense to teach users from an early age how to protect themselves.

It’s a common belief that the services people use should be responsible for their own security, allowing users to access a safe platform without worrying about the risk of being at threat from potential hackers.

Neil Rowney, director at RedMosquito, a company that specialises in information security protection, says:

Young people at school today have never known a world without broadband, the Web, and social media. Given this and the fact that throughout their lives their banking, mortgages etc. will likely all be conducted online, it makes a lot of sense to include elementary cybersecurity principles in the national curriculum. We hear a lot of talk about keeping our children safe online, but cybersecurity as it applies to young people is rarely mentioned. To me, if society is serious about protecting our children then cybersecurity is one building block we must include. We are doing our kids a disservice if we don’t.

Online privacy

When you apply the word privacy to the online world, it becomes a very loose term. Instagram presents a platform in which our innermost private memories become thrown into the public domain for the masses to consume. Its very business model is coaxing us to make our private moments a public, commercialised event for anyone to see. Private interactions are driving traffic and data generation for third parties who are profiting from it.

Businesses sway influencers to behave and present themselves in a provocative way for business gain. To a young person, this lifestyle can seem very exciting. In fact, becoming an influencer is now one of the most aspirational careers for children. So, with that startling figure in mind, it’s more important than ever to be teaching schoolchildren about the pros and cons of incessant Instagram use and its side effects. It’s a good way of introducing them to cyber safety and readying them for the workplace.

The number of cyberattacks and data breaches is rising year on year. One source reports that 765 million people were affected from April–June alone with losses surpassing tens of millions of dollars. But this doesn’t make us defenceless. We need a generation of employees who are wiser to these incoming attacks than the current generation of workers. We need individuals with the necessary skills and habits ready to use in the workplace to combat the increase in threat.

Online personas

Children too often fall victim to a false persona or someone posing to be someone else to get closer to their chosen targets. Common users of social media won’t have much trouble spotting real accounts from the fake ones. However, consider the issue of dating app usage among schoolchildren. With the increasing use of these apps, more and more are trying to harm or scam young people. In fact, a recent survey found that users were conned out of roughly £39 million by fraudsters on dating sites such as Tinder or Bumble.

As time goes on, the cybersecurity industry grows exponentially. It’s crying out for these technical skills across the nation. Educating students on the subject will encourage them to take this as a career.

Thanks for this post go to our friend Jonny Mackley at mediaworksuk.