In an effort to educate pupils about online safety, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Cybersafe Scotland came together to deliver a series of workshops that focused on the risks of online exploitation, data harvesting, and social media attacks.
During these workshops, teams from Robert Gordon University (RGU) and Cybersafe Scotland provided pupils with live examples of cyber-attacks, set up honeypots (designed to purposely engage with hackers), and information on how to avoid being ensnared online by malicious individuals.
Around forty S2 and S3 children from Cults Academy, Oldmachar Academy, Harlaw Academy and Turriff Academy attended, along with representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, Skills Development Scotland, Education Scotland, Orbit Agency Ltd and CyberSafe Scotland.
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Ian Harris, Course Leader for BSc Cyber Security, said: “As part of the drive to educate and inform young users, RGU School of Computing Science and Digital Media hosted its first Safer Internet Day event.
“The event was designed to equip the students with the personal skills to recognise the risks they face in their online social activities.
“By combining a programming element with a language processing technique, we hoped to allow the students to identify the word and conversation style that online predators may use. Raising the topic of online predators with teenage students is a difficult conversation but not one that should be avoided.”
“The students are far more aware and engaged in different social media platforms than even professional IT industry adults can keep track of. By providing the students with the ability to recognise what, the often long and gradual process of online exploitation may contain, we hope that they can avoid or alert to any risks they may face,” Harris concluded.
Debbie McCutcheon, who looks after the cyber programme at Skills Development Scotland, added: “Online safety is so important nowadays, but it’s still essential that we teach our young people about online protection in an inspiring and engaging way.
“And of course once they learn the digital skill needed to stay safe in the virtual world, many are inspired to pursue course choices, and careers, related to the field of cybersecurity in the real world.
“Cyber related skills are very much in demand, and cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing professions in the country right now. We need to make sure our young talent is ready and able to make the most of that opportunity. Events like this will help them do that.”
Annabel Turner, from CyberSafe Scotland, commented: “We were thrilled to be able to run the event yesterday in partnership with RGU and SDS.
“This was the first event, which we know of, in the UK which provided students with an opportunity to engage in constructive coding-based activities which illustrated how predators operate online and showed a mechanism by which cybersecurity professionals are working to try to protect young people from predatory behaviour.”