Feature Story

Learning cybersecurity is as easy as playing a game

Why gamification can make security less of a chore.

Gaming and cybersecurity aren’t always seen as a likely pair. But the two genres have some undeniable likenesses: Bad guys and good guys. The hero-villain narrative is the perfect scenario for a game, and it’s also a real-life situation for many cybersecurity teams whose job it is to prevent hackers and other bad actors from getting hold of a company's most important data. By 2021, there may be more than 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings by 2021. It’s an opportunistic time to prepare students and current employees for the future of security.

Gaming can be an effective learning model for students who learn differently—studies show that 40 percent of students forget what they learned after 20 minutes when using a more passive learning model. Gamification provides an engaging and interactive environment that challenges students instead of just promoting rote memorization.

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The U.K. government is already getting started on gamifying cybersecurity. In 2017, the government issued a tender to run a £20 million Cyber Schools Program  as part of the National Cyber Security Strategy 2016-2021. Forbes writes that this program was created to reduce the skills gap in security, and has already seen some promising results. The first year of the program saw around 23,000 students aged 14 to 18, and 12,000 of those went on to participate in other learning phases.

While gaming can often present the bad guy versus good guy storyline as predictable and low-risk, the realities of cybersecurity are much more volatile. As more smart devices become connected and more data flows through companies, businesses need to maintain the top cybersecurity best practices to ensure safety from attacks. In fact, Cisco’s threat intelligence and research group Talos discovered 251 advisories, which lead to nearly 400 common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE).  

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As our need for cybersecurity increases, so does our need for the jobs to fill those roles. Cisco is working to help bridge the skills gap—the company recently partnered with Australia’s Victoria University to open a cybersecurity training center, offering training and skills development for students. the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network’s competitiveness plan states that the country will need an additional 18,000 cybersecurity workers by 2026. Courses are taught by both cybersecurity professionals and Cisco Networking Academy instructors, and the center includes a full Cyber Security Operations Center (SOC), a simulated working environment, and computer labs.

“We are enormously proud to partner with Cisco to help address a workforce shortage in an industry with a vast future demand for trained professionals,” says Victoria University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Grant Dreher, “The rapid evolution of cybercrimes around the world shows that cybersecurity is not just an Australian problem, it’s a global problem for companies to tackle, using a high-quality workforce with the right skills and training.”

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