HACKING into companies’ computer systems can actually be a solid career choice – even though it sounds like a plot from TV’s Line of Duty.

Ethical hacking is just one option for careers in cyber security – an increasingly important aspect of life due to technology’s seismic impact on society. Yet although it is now so vital, not enough people are considering jobs in cyber security – a fact that global technology firm CGI is keen to change.

The company has a history of actively encouraging young people to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and is promoting cyber security as part of this.

An introduction to what is involved is included in CGI’s innovative STEM from Home project which was set up at the beginning of the first lockdown to help keep young people entertained and educated throughout the pandemic.

Its popularity has exceeded the company’s expectations with thousands of children taking part in the online activities, which include games, quizzes and challenges that can all be done at home online with standard computer facilities.

Each component of the programme has a different theme, weith the most recent being cyber security. Its growing importance  has been highlighted by the pandemic and the increase in “phishing” – aimed at fooling people into clicking onto links which will breach their online security.

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There are many career pathways within the expanding field of cyber security


The shift to homeworking has also meant many firms have had to reassess their cyber security to make sure their systems are safe. In addition, the information revolution that society is currently experiencing has resulted in a greater need for good cyber security because of the subsequent increase in data and the number of different types of networked electronic devices. It means there is a growing need for a workforce skilled in the area.

“If we as a nation are going to have a sufficient number of people working in cyber security we need to do more to interest people in the industry,” said Richard Holmes, CGI’s head of cyber security in the UK. 

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“We want young people to know you can have an interesting and fulfilling career in cyber security and  STEM from Home’s section on it is all part and parcel of this.”

Cyber security is integral to all CGI’s work and Holmes points out that it is becoming increasingly important in almost every aspect of life and business.

“The team I look after are a group of professionals that have made cyber security their speciality, but outside of that we need all of our people who are working in STEM industries to have an understanding of cyber security because it feeds into pretty much everything,” said Holmes.

“You do need experts to tackle some of the deeper, more detailed work but everyone needs an appreciation of cyber security whether you are building a career on a STEM background or an employee in any other kind of company.”

Regular surveys of clients’ needs have shown CGI that cyber security is becoming a greater priority and is now top of the list for many.

People working in the industry now have to understand the different threats companies face and what measures need to be taken to eliminate risk, Holmes explains.

These could involve technical controls or policies and procedures and training for employees on what they should and should not be doing. Once that is achieved, computer systems have to be monitored to make sure there is no suspicious activity. 

Cyber security experts need to understand the latest threats, what the implications are of any potential compromise and what steps they should take to mitigate any security breach.

“If you have a suspected breach the quicker you spot it and the quicker you respond significantly reduces the disruption you may have,” said Holmes.

He manages a team of 250 cyber security professionals who perform these roles, often as part of a bigger service CGI is providing. “We do operational monitoring of services for clients, penetration testing and we have ethical hackers who try to hack into IT systems and test they are not vulnerable. We help customers understand whether they have the appropriate controls for their business,” he said.

“Ethical hackers have good fun but it is hard work because they continually have to update their skills and understand the latest threats. 

“You might be given the credentials of a junior person in a company so you can get into the building and see what systems you can access and what you can find out. 

“Whether we are supporting critical services, the functioning of local government or utilities companies or the defence and space sectors, we are looking to make sure all of the services provided are secure.”

Holmes said he continues to be fascinated by cyber security, adding that he feels lucky to have built a career in the field. 

“We want young people to know they can have an interesting and fulfilling career in cyber security, but even if they don’t want to make it their career it is still worth having an understanding of it as it is an increasingly important aspect of many jobs, including those in engineering, information management and computing,” said Holmes.

THE STEM from Home topic on cyber security explains the ways in which people or businesses protect their personal information and other data from being stolen by cyber criminals. 

It states: “From making pictures on Instagram private, to keeping emails secure, cyber security has become a huge part of modern life and it is important that we all understand and use it correctly.” 

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The topic looks at the different types of cyber threats, the types of cyber security that work to protect against them and some actions that people can take to stay cyber safe.

There’s a range of activities including one called Secret Agent Chat where participants learn how to create and use an encryption technique known as the one-time pad. This method of encryption allows the participants to send secret messages to their friends.

In the Secret Message activity, the participants learn how to make their own encryption programme, send and receive secret messages with a friend. This project introduces iteration (looping) over a text string.

The password generator activity shows how to create a programme to generate passwords which are random.

There is also a cyber crossword which helps players learn the meaning of some key cyber security terms. 

Lastly participants are asked to create their own online safety poster using what they have learned so far as well as their own research. The posters can either be handmade or created virtually using Word or Rasperry Pi’s “wanted” activity.




THE STEM from Home pack on communication is also aimed at helping participants communicate online in a safe and responsible manner. 

For the online activity in this pack CGI UK partnered with Thinkuknow, the education programme that protects children both online and offline. 

Thinkuknow has produced a variety of home activity packs including topics such as staying safe online, video chatting, advice for young people and the evolution of technology. The activities are aimed at children age 4-14 and each last around 15 minutes.  

This pack also teaches about the history of Morse Code, how it is used and how participants can write their own. 

All that is needed is a computer capable of accessing the internet and Microsoft Word. 

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There is also a STEM “Who Am I” game which teaches children about the world of STEM and all its job possibilities. Players have to guess the STEM job role by asking up to 20 questions that can only have yes or no answers. 

Effective communication is key in this game to ensure players can guess the STEM job within the 20 questions. 

The bonus activity is to create a web page which can translate normal English text into pirate speak using jQuery and regular expressions. All that is required is a computer connected to the internet. 

Students learn how to use jQuery to cause live updates on a web page, how to write regular expressions to match patterns and words and how to create a web page to input and output results.