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Virtual school to train the next generation of cyber defenders during lockdown

A virtual school teaching teenagers cyber-security skills has been set up by the government to ensure the next generation maintains the UK’s “world-leading” cyber sector.

While schools across the country are currently shut due to the coronavirus lockdown, pupils will be able to attend classes online teaching them cyber-defence skills.

The Cyber Discovery virtual school provides free weekly webinars run by industry experts teaching security disciplines such as digital forensics, cryptography and operating systems.

It is aimed at students aged between 13 and 18 and lessons will take the form of educational games and activities to build cyber-security skills.

The new online tool will be an extension of an existing scheme run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), its annual CyberFirst summer courses for about 1,000 students designed to improve cyber skills in young people.

“This new initiative will give teenagers something fun and educational to do from home and provide them with a glimpse into the life of a cyber-security professional,” digital infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said.

“We have a world-leading cyber sector, which plays a crucial role protecting the country and our digital economy, so it is absolutely vital we continue to inspire the next generation of tech talent to help maintain the UK’s strong position.”

The NCSC is particularly concerned about cyber security at this time due to the number of people working from home who may not be on as secure a system as they would be in the office.

The CyberFirst programme also includes a range of bursary and apprenticeship schemes, as well as a girls’ only competition for 12 and 13-years-olds, and up to five-day development courses at UK colleges and universities for those aged 12 to 19.

Last year it emerged that women make up just 11 per cent of the global cyber-security workforce and the government has called for more to be done to redress the imbalance.

NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin said: “Technology is helping us all cope with the coronavirus crisis and is playing an essential role in keeping our businesses moving and our society connected.

“It has never been more important for our young people to keep engaged and learn how to protect our digital world, and I’m delighted to see our instructor-led CyberFirst summer courses made available online.”

The National Crime Agency and Cyber Security Challenge UK have also announced that teenagers will be able to access its own cyber skills platform, CyberLand, for free during the coming months as part of their own scheme to boost interest in the subject.

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