Cyber Security Experts in the Making!

The day began for High Tunstall College of Science with a competition on Beat Saber. The high scorer from all schools walked away with a gaming chair and the tension was palpable. Michael An early battle saw Josh and Isaac saw Isaac edge the lead with 19596 points to Josh’s 19309. Oakley did his best but unfortunately fell short of the high score. Jenna then stepped up and smashed it with a score of 44885, a score that wouldn’t be beaten by a student from High Tunstall (this was eventually beaten by another school).

Next up, Caesar Cipher. Staff from Accenture showed students how a Caesar Cipher works and undertook some encryption and decryption activities using a Caesar Cipher wheel. A simple way of encrypting messages, a Caesar Cipher is a type of substitution cipher in which each letter in the plaintext is ‘shifted’ a certain number of places down the alphabet. For example, with a shift of 1, A would be replaced by B, B would become C, a shift of 2 would see A replaced by C, B would become D and so on. The method is named after Julius Caesar, who apparently used it to communicate with his generals.

On Friday 29th March, eight students from year nine who had selected Computer Science for GCSE, set off on the 8.04am train bound for Newcastle. Their destination, St James’ Park for a day learning about Cyber Security.

After we learned about the Caesar Cipher, students experienced cyberstart go, an introduction to the HM Government’s cyberstart program which aims to ensure that many more people enter the cyber security profession in the coming years. When the students enter Year 10, they will be offered the chance to experience the cyberstart program which has four stages; assess, game, essentials and elite. Cyber Discovery immerse students in challenges, tools and games, designed to introduce them to the cyber security industry and provide some context to what professionals in the field work on. Students who progress to elite will be invited to an in-person residential where they will compete in live challenges and experience inspiring talks from industry experts.

More cyber security challenges were up next with Cyber Security Challenge UK. Students worked through a Cyber City, solving security problems in various locations such as a criminal broadcasting a rogue WiFi signal in an internet café in order to steal personal data from unsuspecting customers or taking the role as a judge, deciding whether defendants are guilty or not guilty of committing an offence under the Computer Misuse Act (1990).

Think cyber security is all about using computers? Think again. Experts from BT then taught the students about how computers that aren’t accessible via a network can be accessed with a short course in lock picking! Students then attempted to pick “yale” style locks and padlocks which use a pin tumbler mechanism. The pin tumbler lock is a lock mechanism that uses pins of varying lengths to prevent the lock from opening without the correct key. Some impressive times were recorded which has prompted Mr Morrissey to consider purchasing extra locks for his house!

The students rounded off the day with a talk from the Police around the field of Cyber Security and consequences for those who commit cyber-crimes. Overall, an excellent day was had by our students learning about cyber security and all of the challenges and rewards that comes with it (not to mention the incredible potential salaries available for people entering the field!).

Mr Morrissey, Teacher of Computing, Faculty of Technology and Enterprise