The UK government has launched online cybersecurity courses for young people in the UK, designed to encourage and equip the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC’s) CyberFirst scheme and the SANS Institute, the Cyber Discovery programme will be open to 13-18 years old in the UK.

Those who sign up to the free extracurricular course will have access to over 200 free cybersecurity challenges and weekly webinars from industry experts.

From stopping cyber-criminal gangs, learning Python programming, SQL injection and XXS as well as understanding the skills needed to become a cybersecurity professional, participants will take on the role of a cybersecurity agent to complete interactive games designed to test “team work, creative problem solving, and willpower”.

Online cybersecurity courses to help teenagers build skills

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said that online cybersecurity courses will make is easier for teenagers to build skills in this area.

“This new initiative will give teenagers something fun and educational to do from home and provide them with a glimpse into the life of a cyber security professional,” he said.

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“We have a world-leading cyber sector which plays a crucial role protecting the country and our digital economy, so it is absolutely vital we continue to inspire the next generation of tech talent to help maintain the UK’s strong position.”

With schools across the UK current closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and uncertainties over when they will re-open, the Virtual Cyber School is offering thousands of free licences for students to take part.

The NCSC has also moved its free CyberFirst summer programme online. The National Crime Agency and Cyber Security Challenge UK have also announced that teenagers can access their online cyber skills platform CyberLand online for free this summer.

Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET believes that cybersecurity should be a part of official school curriculums in order to better prepare students for future careers.

“This is a fantastic initiative as children need as much knowledge as they can digest. In fact, I’m surprised that cybersecurity is not part of the official curriculum yet as it is becoming a vital part of our children’s future and arguably linked to our future economy,” he said.

“Children in the UK could be at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the world should they not learn these important skills early enough, so we need to act now. The skills gap will shrink with help from such initiatives like this, but it won’t reduce at a quick enough rate without government intervention in schools making it as important as maths or literacy.”

Read more: Coronavirus case studies: How Cypher moved its coding camps for kids online.