An innovative initiative to explore the fascinating world of ethical hacking and cyber security is proving hugely popular

Scotland’s school children are being taught about ethical hacking and digital forensics as part of an online challenge designed to find the country’s next generation of cyber superheroes.

The hugely popular Discover Cyber Skills initiative, delivered by Skills Development Scotland, is entering its third and penultimate year on a high after smashing its launch targets. Organisers initially hoped that 4000 people would complete the course by the end of its four-year run, yet after only two years nearly 40,000 have joined in with the computer-based fun, both online and through real world events held across Scotland.

In previous years, pupils gained hands on experience of cracking password encryptions, hacking a bank, and defending a hospital from a cyber-attack. All were designed to get the message across about the importance of online security for both personal safety reasons and as a career option. This year’s online lessons will see children role-play a cyber security consultant tasked with protecting a fictional pizza restaurant chain, as well as being introduced to a range of digital forensic techniques as they try to solve a murder case.

Claire Gillespie, Sector Manager for digital technologies at SDS, said: “The fact this programme has been so successful shows the message is getting through about the amazing career opportunities in Scotland’s digital technology sector. It also shows that these lessons are a very welcome addition to the school curriculum, which is brilliant to see.”


Thomas Egan 


The lessons are free, with no previous computer experience or skills needed, and the most popular challenge will be rerun during Cyber Scotland Week in February 2020.

SDS is also engaged in helping industry find fresh ways of developing the skills they need in cyber security, with work-based learning being a key part of the approach. 

Aegon UK is one such employer taking this approach, with the financial services firm working in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University to offer a Graduate Apprenticeship in cyber security.

Jessica Auld and Thomas Egan are two of those who have grasped the opportunity. 

Jessica said: “I’ve always found cyber security an interesting subject – technology is constantly changing and evolving at rates faster than ever before and, with all this new technology, comes a growing number of opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit.”
Thomas added: “I’m consistently being trained on new processes and learning new things about my job – both in my work and at university – it’s very demanding but I’m really enjoying the challenge.

“I think that’s what I love most about my job, that I’m learning something new on a daily basis. Every day is different in its own way, and you never have that ‘groundhog day’ feeling.”

Alan Woodrow, who leads the apprenticeship programme at Aegon in Edinburgh, commented: “The Graduate Apprenticeship programme has given Aegon a fantastic opportunity to develop enthusiastic people and provide them with the platform to apply what they are learning at university immediately in the workplace. Everyone benefits from this fully-funded programme.”