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Effort kicks off to help get kids cyber-savvy

Peter Griffin, Editor. 27 October 2022, 12:45 pm
Effort kicks off to help get kids cyber-savvy

This is how wired our teenagers are: a third of them spend four or more hours online a day and four in 10 use five or more social media platforms.

But that doesn’t mean they automatically know how to protect their privacy and stay safe online. Nor does it suggest they naturally understand the potential to pursue a career in cyber-related fields.

 A new cybersecurity training programme aimed at Year 6 - 13 (10 - 18 year olds) aims to change that with a series of “challenges” that is backed by the government and a wide range of industry partners and will be made available to all schools, kura and kura kaupapa Māori, in English and te reo Māori.

Pūkenga ā-Ipurangi Aotearoa – Cyber Skills Aotearoa features four challenges “designed to prepare intermediate and high school students with the critical technical skills and social awareness they need in a rapidly evolving online world”.

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Cyber Comp prompts users to think about their data privacy

Cyber Comp, the first challenge, launched today and runs through to November 11, 2022. It involves students experiencing 12 “age-appropriate” scenarios from a hacker’s persective to give them an understanding of how hackers can attempt to breach their privacy or coax sensitive information out of them.

“Using simulated social media, messaging apps and websites, students are challenged to find secret messages, spot a phishing attack and decrypt lyrics to famous songs to solve cryptographic ciphers,” Cyber Skills Aotearoa explains.

According to Netsafe, 17% of all incidents reported to the online safety agency in the year to June 30 came from people under 21. Reports from this age group have grown on average by 13% in the last three years.

The Cyber Skills Aotearoa challenges are based on courses created by Australian organisation Grok Academy, which has delivered it to 212,000 Australian students.

Aussie origins

Grok was founded by Dr James Curran, a former associate professor in computer science at the University of Sydney.

“Bad actors do not respect national borders and comprehensive efforts by Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia to upskill our young people in cyber security will benefit both countries,” he says.

Industry partners in the New Zealand programme include ASB, Amazon Web Services (AWS), BNZ, CERT NZ, N4L, Netsafe and the National Cyber Security Centre.

David Clark, BNZ’s General Manager of Cyber and Governance, says the bank has a role to play keeping New Zealanders safe online given, the extent to which they make financial transactions in the digital world.

“We know all too well the financial losses digital scammers cause and how emotionally devastating they can be for victims,” he says.

Three additional challenges will become available in 2023.

The full Cyber Skills Aotearoa series of challenges includes:

Cyber Comp

This enables students to think about how a hacker might scam them. Students collect personal information found in the social media profiles of fictitious characters. The activities demonstrate the importance of keeping personal information secure; the value of using strong, unique passwords, and how encryption works. Students also learn how to protect themselves from identity theft and common scams like phishing.

Information Privacy and Security Challenge (Secondary Schools Version)

Students gain a sound grounding in cyber-secure behaviour and practices, including awareness about sharing personal information, using strong passwords, and avoiding scams and phishing messages. Videos explain cyber security concepts and showcase New Zealand cyber security professionals and careers.

Information Privacy and Security Challenge (Primary & Intermediate Schools Version)

Similar to the Secondary Schools Version but with content more appropriate for a younger audience.

Web Application Security Challenge

Students learn about URLs, basic HTML and how web applications secure data. This Challenge uses fake websites to introduce these concepts, so students can experiment with exploiting unsafe websites in a safe, ‘sandboxed’ environment.

Data Encryption and Transmission Challenge

Introduces basic cryptography concepts in relation to data representation and securing online communication, and how these are implemented through code.


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