Cyber experts launch pilot school programme at Portlethen Academy

Skills Development Scotland is working with cyber experts on a new approach to help young people in school develop cyber skills while raising awareness of careers in cyber security. 

Portlethen Academy, along with five other schools and employers across Scotland, will take part in the trial, in which pupils will learn all about penetration testing, more commonly known as “ethical hacking” or “pen testing”.

The lesson will take place at Portlethen Academy on March 6, 2020.

Cyber experts will support the teacher to deliver the co-created lesson by talking them through the process of ethically hacking a fictional airline in a virtual environment. The lesson, which has been fully developed with and approved by teachers, is mapped to the school cyber security curriculum. 

The pupils will learn to perform reconnaissance of the airline’s digital footprint, use collected intelligence to perform a social engineering attack, perform a penetration test and then report back on the results of that test. They will also benefit by hearing directly from experienced industry experts about what it’s really like to work in cyber security.

Claire Gillespie, Digital Technology sector manager for Skills Development Scotland said: “I’m really excited about this approach which will give learners hands-on experience with real security tools and techniques. But the really exciting part is having the industry experts involved. Sharing their skills, knowledge and real work experiences will be a real inspiration for the next generation of cyber security specialists.

“This is also a great way for cyber experts to benefit from classroom experiences, and who knows, maybe we will encourage some of them to re-train as teachers!”

Claire added: “If this pilot is successful, we not only plan to roll this out to more schools, but we also plan to take it beyond just cyber security and bring other industry experts in to talk about other broader tech related subjects.”

Neil Morrison, Head Teacher at Portlethen Academy, said: “We’re thrilled to take part in this innovative pilot program. I anticipate the lesson will engage pupils and foster an interest in cyber security.”

Cllr Gillian Owen, Chair of Education and Children’s Services at Aberdeenshire Council, added: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the teachers and pupils at Portlethen Academy. Career opportunities in cyber security are largely unknown to young people, so we’re confident this lesson will open doors and encourage students to get involved in the field.”