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Singapore’s journey towards digital transformation and inclusion must be supported by cybersecurity talent to maintain a secure cyberspace in an increasingly connected landscape. In line with Singapore’s initiative to grow a talent pool, BT, a leading provider of global communications and security solutions, and Standard Chartered launched a new cyber security educational programme in Singapore. The Schools Cyber Security Challenges (SCSC) is a pilot initiative with the Tanglin Trust School (TTS) to nurture the future generation of digitally-savvy young people.

Telecom Review Asia Pacific spoke to James Hennah, BT’s director of security for Asia, Middle East and Africa, and David Fourie, TTS’ assistant head of maths & computer science faculty to find out more about this programme.

 

James Hennah, Director of Security for Asia, Middle East and Africa, BT

Interview with James Hennah, Director of Security for Asia, Middle East and Africa, BT

The Schools Cyber Security Challenges (SCSC) was first launched in Australia and quickly gained momentum. What prompted the launch of this programme and why has it been so well-received?

The launch of Schools Cyber Security Challenges (SCSC) in Australia emphasises the critical need for schools, government, and business sector to come together to address the immediate cyber skills shortage, while also fostering a longer-term cybersecurity culture within Australia’s education system and future workforce.

Offering both technical and non-technical aspects of cybersecurity, the SCSC courses enable students to be immersed in engaging and age-appropriate activities involving investigation, deduction, and programming, allowing them to think from an attackers’ perspective. The programme also informs them of career opportunities and professions in the rapidly growing cyber industry, so that students become well-equipped not only in their personal lives, but also later, in the workforce.

Aside from the breadth and depth of the programme, the SCSC has also demonstrated that by working with younger children, they are able to experience STEM subjects at an earlier age, which leads to an increased uptake of these subjects especially among female students. We have also seen additional benefits from the students sharing their learnings with family members, extending the value of the programme to helping other generations better understand how to navigate the internet and social media in a safer, more secure way.

These rewarding elements successfully kickstarted the SCSC in Australia and in 9 months, it had exceeded its 2-year enrolment targets. As of November 2020, we have 90,000 unique students from 2,240 schools enrolled on the platform, participating in the Challenges.

Singapore is a natural extension of SCSC due to its strong education system and digital infrastructure. The pilot initiative in Tanglin Trust School has met with positive and supportive responses from both parents and students, with over 150 students participating in the courses to date. As a leader in global technology, we are committed to support the nation’s continuous efforts in accelerating cyber awareness and skills by providing the necessary resources to help educate and enable the next generation.

What are some cyber challenges that students face today and what will be the biggest takeaway for them as they navigate an increasingly digitalised world?

Increased connectivity has presented us with ever evolving dangers and risks of data privacy, disinformation, and social media publicity. While students are starting to become aware of what they share online, they may still struggle when it comes to having the right skills to be more discerning with online navigation and intricately masked cyber activities. The Schools Cyber Security Challenges (SCSC) therefore explore general topics like personal information security and data sharing, as well as technical topics such as cryptography and network security, to help students become better equipped when tackling these cyber challenges.

How is this programme structured to make it relatable and beneficial to students of different ages?

The Schools Cyber Security Challenges (SCSC) programme is available via an online platform that can be integrated into a school’s existing computer science-learning and information and communications technology (ICT) curriculum. It currently offers 5 challenges available that provide age-appropriate content for students from ages 10 to 18:

Primary students:

  • Information privacy and security for primary students. 
This Challenge teaches personal information security using the innovative approach of thinking from a hacker’s point-of-view. Students will learn to value the importance of passwords, as well as discover just how vulnerable private information can be online.

Secondary students

  • Information privacy and security
. This Challenge teaches personal information security using the innovative approach of thinking from a hacker’s point-of-view. Students will learn to value the importance of passwords, as well as discover just how vulnerable private information can be online.
  • Web application security. This Challenge demonstrates the importance of security in web applications by exposing typical flaws in websites that can be exploited using tools built into the web browser.
  • Data encryption and transmission. This Challenge introduces basic cryptography concepts in relation to data representation and securing online communication, and how these are implemented through code.
  • Wired and wireless network security
. This Challenge teaches the fundamentals of wired and wireless networks and the underlying principles of digital systems using BBC micro:bits.

Why is Singapore the perfect environment for SCSC to thrive? And what are BT’s future expansion plans in Singapore?

While there is concern in Singapore with the lack of cyber awareness among the younger generation and potential dangers they are exposing themselves to with their online presence, Singapore is a great and effective environment for the Schools Cyber Security Challenges (SCSC) programme to thrive, given its strong education system and digital infrastructure. We are proud to be working with Standard Chartered Bank to pilot the initiative at Tanglin Trust School. Our objective is to see further expansion of the programme across the full Singapore education system including international and local schools. We are already working with several other international schools and are exploring the best way to provide targeted, relevant, and localised content.

 

David Fourie, Assistant Head of Maths & Computer Science Faculty, TTS

Interview with David Fourie, Assistant Head of Maths & Computer Science Faculty, TTS

Tell us about Tanglin Trust School’s partnership with BT and Standard Chartered in launching this pilot initiative.

Tanglin Trust School has always looked to garner links to our local community and businesses. Allowing us to draw on the corporate world to inspire and teach students. I was very lucky to learn of the BT Schools Cyber Security Challenges which was being ran in Australia and they agreed to let us try their courses with our students in Singapore. It was fortuitous timing as the school had just entered circuit breaker and having an online curriculum that was so engaging meant our students could work on it where ever they were.

Why is cybersecurity becoming a priority in schools? How does this complement the school’s curriculum?

Recently there has been a lot of publicity about the dangers of social media. I feel the conversation has shifted slightly from the dangers that the public poses to each other and more to the danger, or loss of privacy presented by the companies. With the raised of awareness of the dangers and risks that this increased connectivity has presented it seemed the perfect time to teach the students more about how to stay safe while using these tools.

What has been the response from parents, teachers and students regarding this programme?

The students have loved the Grok exercises. Some of the students went home and finished the course in their own time! When I tell students to go on to Grok there is one response I get - “YES”! In a recent parent teacher conferences, parents were incredibly supportive of the programme and the key learning points of potential future careers, and staying safe online was met with positive responses.

How is this programme aligned with the school’s vision and values?

A program such as the Schools Cyber Security Challenges aligns strongly with Tanglin Trust School’s Core values of respect, responsibility and purpose. The message of respect for others is core to any E-Safety curriculum, however, it is your responsibility to protect yourself through sensible choices when using technology. The delivery of the Challenges has given purpose to some students that have realised that there is potentially very rewarding careers in the field of cyber security where they can take an active part in protecting others.