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Pūkenga Ā-Ipurangi Aotearoa – Cyber Skills Aotearoa Launches To Keep Young People Secure Online

A new cyber security training programme goes live today, aiming to equip all Year 6-13 students with vital skills to protect their privacy and operate safely online.

Available free to all schools, kura and kura kaupapa Māori, in English and te reo Māori, Pūkenga ā-Ipurangi Aotearoa – Cyber Skills Aotearoa is a suite of 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.

Created in a collaboration between government, educators and industry, the programme will also raise awareness of career opportunities in cyber security to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand has the skills to protect communities, businesses, and infrastructure from online attacks.

The first challenge, ‘Cyber Comp’, begins today and runs until 11th November 2022. Students experience 12 age-appropriate scenarios from a hackers’ perspective to understand how the information they share online can be used by bad actors and to learn how to better protect their privacy. 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.

Three new challenges will become available next year, starting with Information Security in Term 1, followed by Web Application Security and Cryptography. Each topic comes with relatable, easy to teach resources that support the Hangarau Matihiko and the Digital Technologies Curriculum.

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Cyber Skills Aotearoa launches as cyber incidents continue to rise globally, and in this country, and anyone can be affected. In the 12 months to June 2022, 17% of all reports to Netsafe’s incident contact centre came from people under 21, and reports from this age group have grown on average by 13% in the last three years. In 2021, 8,831 incidents were reported to CERT NZ, resulting in more than $16 million in direct financial losses.

Adapted from the successful programme designed by not-for-profit, Grok Academy and already experienced by over 212,000 Australian school students, Cyber Skills Aotearoa has been developed for classrooms locally in partnership with CORE Education Tātai Aho Rau, the New Zealand Government and industry partners including ASB, Amazon Web Services (AWS), BNZ, CERT NZ, N4L, Netsafe and the National Cyber Security Centre.

The involvement of industry leaders and Government cyber security agencies is part of a coordinated effort to make Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to cyber safety more consistent and empower individuals to take proactive measures to protect themselves online.

Research by CERT NZ also found that financial institutions are a leading source of information and advice for consumers about cyber security.

"We firmly believe that all of us at BNZ have a role to play to help keep New Zealanders safe when they’re online. We know all too well the financial losses digital scammers cause and how emotionally devastating they can be for victims. We’re proud to support Cyber Skills Aotearoa realise our combined ambition to build young people’s skills to safely navigate the online world. As young people live more of their lives online Cyber Skills Aotearoa will help equip them to confidently navigate this complex world," says David Clark, General Manager of Cyber and Governance, BNZ.

“Cyber Skills Aotearoa is a concerted nationwide effort to upskill young people which in turn creates a more resilient New Zealand. We live in a digital economy now and a cyber security ‘certificate of fitness’ is crucial to staying safe online. This is front and centre for young people and ASB is passionate about creating awareness and instilling good behaviours from a young age, so they can then become role models for their peers, family, and community,” says David Bullock, EGM Technology & Operations, ASB.

The Cyber Skills Aotearoa programme is supported by partners who hope it will also inspire more young people to consider cyber security as a career. According to an AlphaBeta report commissioned by AWS this year, an estimated one million more New Zealand workers will need digital skills training in the coming year and cybersecurity will be the second most in-demand digital skill by local employers by 2025.

“Technology is rapidly evolving, and we are seeing organisations of all sizes accelerate their digital transformation to support our country’s continued innovation and growth,” says Tim Dacombe-Bird, Country Manager, AWS, New Zealand. “This is driving a high demand for digital skills, which we can address by fostering an interest in and awareness of technology at school, and encouraging lifelong learning in the workforce through the 500 free training courses we provide. We are committed to working with educational institutions, government, and industry to offer a range of programmes like Cyber Skills Aotearoa, to enable the connection between digital skills learning in schools and the workforce.”

Dr James Curran, founder of Grok Academy, says that the programme is available to teachers and students nationwide thanks to the support of its partners. “We are proud to be part of a unique collaboration between government, education, and industry to deliver Cyber Skills Aotearoa. 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.

“As the employer of the cybersecurity team that provides faster, safer, and more secure internet to schools and kura reo Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand, The Network for Learning is proud to be involved in this initiative that helps improve young people’s cybersecurity awareness. The size and complexity of the cyber threat is growing, so we must equip our young people with the knowledge and skills to stay safe and secure online in what is already a digitally-enabled world,” says Larrie Moore, CEO, The Network for Learning.

About the Cyber Skills Aotearoa Challenges

Cyber Comp 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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