La Trobe to boost school cyber skills

Melbourne’s secondary school students will be given a rare glimpse inside the dark world of cyber-attacks – invited to take part in an immersive competition designed to nurture the next generation of cyber-defenders.

Called Cyber Games, it is the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere and the result of a collaboration between La Trobe University, Cisco and Optus in partnerships with Quantum Victoria (Specialist Science and Mathematics Centre), the Science Teachers Association of Victoria and Life Journey/Day of STEM.

Today speaking at a Parliament House Expo to celebrate the University’s 50th Birthday celebrations, Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the Cyber Games initiative was part of a La Trobe commitment to provide students with the opportunities and skills they will need to work in cyber -  one of the world’s fastest-growing employment fields.

“Cyber Games will simulate real word threat scenarios in an immersive ‘cyber gaming’ environment,” Professor Dewar said.

“Students will defend a range of cyberattacks – including phishing, denial of service attacks, an email hack or all-out cyber warfare. New vulnerabilities and tougher challenges are added as the situation develops, allowing students to defend real world scenarios.

“There’s a huge need for a new workforce of cyber defenders. This initiative will not only educate a new generation of cyber-literate students, it will also help close the gap of what looks set to be a looming skills shortage.”

The Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis officially launched the initiative.

“With cybercrime rising at an astonishing rate in Australia, cyber security has never been more crucial to our economy as it is right now,” Minister Dalidakis said.

“La Trobe's new cyber security initiative for schools will help Victoria's next generation understand potential threats and build the skills they need to ensure they are well equipped to protect their personal privacy and our digital economy into the future,” he said.

Under the program, secondary students will be introduced to cyber through an online entry-level version of Cyber Games currently being developed by La Trobe and Quantum Victoria in association with Cisco.

Students who demonstrate an aptitude or interest in cyber will then progress to participating in the Cyber Games, an interactive competition between school teams to be the best defender against a range of simulated cyber-attacks.

“Optus and La Trobe University have a joint-commitment to build the skills of the future for the knowledge economy. Initiatives like Cyber Games deliver interactive and innovative learning opportunities in Cyber education and exciting game-changing ways in which we can connect and engage whilst creating pathways for our youth into the jobs of the future,” said John Paitaridis, Managing Director, Optus Business.

Cisco’s industry standard Cyber Range Platform – a cyber attack simulator using real life scenarios that can progressively increase in complexity and difficulty – will be adapted for use in the Cyber Games competition to ensure a safe and controlled environment.

The initiative was welcomed by Soula Bennett the President of the Science Teachers’ Association of Victoria and Director of Quantum Victoria.

“Cyber security is important because we live in a word where all data both personal and confidential can potentially be accessed by anyone, so we need to ensure we educate students, teachers and the wider community of the importance of mitigating those risks,” Ms Bennett said.

The first schools will get their introduction to Cyber Games at the Experience La Trobe event in Melbourne next month. Virtual competitions will begin from July, with a final between the two best teams at the end of the year. The 2017 Cyber Champions will be offered direct access to the La Trobe Cybersecurity program, which gets underway in 2018.

Latest statistics show there is a growing need for skills in cyber security. The 2016 CERT Australia Threat Report showed an alarming growth in cyberattacks on business and government. Over a 12-month period, there was an estimated 1095 serious cyber security incidents on government systems and more than 14,804 cyber security incidents impacting Australian businesses.

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Media Contact: Tim Mitchell – - 9479 5246/0437 457 780