Students, like the rest of us, are using the internet more and more. And whenever they go online— to do school work, to chat with their friends, or anything else—they put themselves at risk of cybercrime. Computer viruses can corrupt their files, hackers can steal their data, and criminals can trick them into revealing sensitive information. But luckily there are simple steps they can take to protect their digital lives.
NOVA has teamed up with cybersecurity experts to create theCybersecurity Lab , a game in which players will discover how they can keep their digital lives safe and develop an understanding of cyber threats and defenses. Players will advance by using computer coding, logical reasoning, critical thinking, and vulnerability detection to solve various problems. These are the same skills employed regularly by cybersecurity professionals, but players won’t need any prior cybersecurity or coding expertise to succeed.
The Cybersecurity Lab is a great resource for educators who want to teach their students best practices for staying safe online and to introduce them to computer science principles. It meets the growing need for K-12 computer science resources, focusing on a specific niche of that field that has real-life implications for everyone that uses the internet.
In the game, players work for a start-up social network company that is the target of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. Working alongside their friend and colleague—a brilliant, business savvy entrepreneur—their goal is to grow their tiny company into a global empire. To do this, players must complete challenges to strengthen their cyber defenses and thwart their attackers. There are four major gameplay components: a coding challenge, a password challenge, a social engineering challenge, and a series of cyber battles.
This challenge is an introduction to basic computer programming. Usually computer code is written in text, but in this challenge we’re using Blockly, a visual computer programming editor created by Google, which uses drag and drop blocks that can be stacked together to create a computer program. Players will program a robot to navigate a maze using Blockly drag-and-drop commands.
Password Cracking Challenge
Passwords are the most common ways people prove their identities online, so using good passwords is essential for keeping digital information safe. In this challenge, players face a series of “password duels” that teach the basics of how attackers might try to crack their passwords and how they can make stronger, more secure passwords.
Social Engineering Challenge
Scammers try to trick people into handing over sensitive information and downloading computer viruses from emails. In this challenge, players will learn to spot scam emails, websites and phone calls. They will complete the challenge armed with practical tips that will help them avoid becoming victims of social engineering scams.
Network Cyber Battles
By completing the challenges, players will earn resources to buy cyber defenses to defend their companies against a series of cyber attacks that reflect the types of cyber attack that real companies and institutions often fall victim to. Players will learn about a range of cyber attacks and how to effectively defend institutions from them.
The Lab also features stories of real-world cyber attacks, a glossary of cyber terms, short animated videos and video quizzes. The videos explain the need for cybersecurity, the tradeoff between privacy versus security, cryptography (cyber codes), and what exactly hackers are.
There is a broad range of jobs in the field of cybersecurity and a severe shortage of people with the specialized skills required to do them. As our lives become ever more intertwined with the internet, the opportunities in this field will expand further. NOVA’s Cybersecurity Lab is a starting point to inspire a new generation of cyber defenders.