children using computers in education

Techy kids found to be cyber-security boon to clueless adults

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Tech-savvy children are the first line of defence for cyber security in many households as adults are turning to older teenagers for help instead of their work colleagues or partners, a UK survey has found.

Commissioned by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the research shows children are four times more likely to be sought out for guidance, ahead of search engines such as Google, when online accounts are being created and importantly when checking the security settings on connected devices.

Teenagers over the age of 16 were the preferred choice for advice on how to be secure online by 15 per cent, compared to 10 per cent who said they would ask work colleagues and 8 per cent who would speak to a partner.

The survey of 2,500 people, businesses and charities, also found that 22 per cent would turn to children aged over 16 for help creating online accounts, and by 19 per cent to check security settings on a device.

“Children are a vital cog in protecting online devices but we can’t emphasise enough the importance of increasing the numbers of those actively participating in cyber security,” said Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for skills and growth.

“Whether this is for future professionals who are seeking a career within national security or on a wider societal context, ensuring children understand how networks work and not just how to use them will help to ensure the UK remains protected online now and in the future.”

In January, the NCSC said that its CyberFirst programme, which is designed to encourage young people to develop their cyber-security skills, has trebled its intake since it launched in 2016.

The body is also preparing to crown the winner of its CyberFirst Girls competition in Edinburgh, designed to encourage more young girls to consider cyber security as a career option, which attracted a record 12,000 girls aged 12 and 13 this year.

“The CyberFirst Girls competition is a great way of getting young women involved in a world they may not have known before taking part. Congratulations to all the girls who took part in this year’s competition and we look forward to seeing who claims the prize over the next two days,” Ensor added.

The IET’s latest EngTalk event, ‘Rihanna changed me life’, is about inspiring a new generation of cyber security professionals. In this talk, speaker Raj Samani will discuss why young people become cyber offenders and how we could inspire them for positive actions instead. The talk takes place on 13 May 2019, at IET London: Savoy Place.

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