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The next generation of Scottish tech stars will have the chance to learn about cyber security and hacking prevention this Christmas through a series of fun and informative lectures.

Over 2000 secondary school pupils from across Scotland are lined up to attend the annual Cyber Security Christmas Lectures hosted by five universities. The organisers aim to inspire more young people to consider a career in cyber security and Scotland’s wider digital technologies sector.

Speakers include experts from academia, industry, and Police Scotland, covering three areas that make up the National Progression Award in Cyber Security: digital forensics, ethical hacking, and data security. Lectures will discuss topics as diverse as the concept of social engineering and the psychology of cyber security.

Programme highlights include Matt Summers of NCC Group, a professional hacker who has worked on behalf of the UK government and private companies, looking at the ways students can break into cyber security; and Chris Jefferson, researcher in Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms at the University of St Andrews, who will show how the internet tries to keep your emails and social media messages safe and secret, and what happens when things go wrong.

Eliza May-Austin, a cyber security student who has experience at Scottish cyber security company Zonefox and hopes to work in counter terrorism, will also be taking the stage. Organisations need to understand how hacking is done to protect against it so Eliza will be leading demos and explaining common weaknesses in communications protocols.

Brian Higgins, International Man of Mystery, is lined up as closing speaker at each of the lectures and these sessions will be open to the general public, business people and parents with their children. Students and teachers who have attended the lectures in previous years will know Higgins for his high energy audience participation competitions but the topic of this year’s lecture is on a strictly need to know basis.

Global lead

Martin Beaton, Cyber Security Network Integrator for Scottish Enterprise/PwC and one of the organisers of the series, explained that while the lectures are a fun way to end the Christmas term, they also have a serious message.

He said: “Scotland is taking a global lead in protecting and educating about cyber security but demand for skilled people is outstripping supply. The sector offers many exciting opportunities and there are plenty of well-paid and fulfilling jobs but we need to raise awareness of the routes in.

“It’s not always easy for young people and their parents to visualise what a career in the digital world will actually involve so these lectures play an important role in demystifying the industry as well as sparking ideas. They also offer the chance to experience a day in the life of a university student and meet other people with similar interests.”

Now in its fourth year, the Cyber Security Christmas Lectures series is supported by Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, SICSA, Skills Development Scotland, Young Scot and PwC.

Digital World

The Cyber Security Christmas Lectures series is just one of many exciting Scottish initiatives designed to inspire young people to explore the digital technologies.

A multi-channel marketing campaign entitled Digital World is currently underway, encouraging more people to consider a career in Scotland’s digital sector through a mix of television, digital and out-of-home advertising along with a dedicated website offering case studies and a wealth of careers information.

Those attending the lectures will find out how the campaign can help them learn more about the careers on offer.

Claire Gillespie, Key Sector Manager for ICT and Digital Technologies at Skills Development Scotland, added: “Cyber Security is one of the many growth areas in Scotland’s digital sector, and is something that affects us all, from businesses to consumers.

“These lectures are an ideal way to bring the topic to life for a wide audience, and I’m hopeful they could encourage more young people to consider it as a future career.”

A Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s ICT and Digital Technologies Sector was launched last year, backed by £6.6 million from the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership. The plan identified the potential for 11,000 job opportunities in Scotland each year until 2020, often paying well above average.

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