To mark the end of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, over 400 secondary school students from post primary schools across the country gathered in Microsoft Ireland’s campus in Leopardstown, Dublin for the CyberSchools Quest event. The gathering was the final in a series of events held during October and focused on equipping the students with cyber security skills and knowledge and opening their minds to the career opportunities within this growing sector.
With the changing nature of cyber-attacks, there is a growing demand for cyber security skills and need to foster the next generation of cybersecurity leaders in Ireland. A recent report by Cyber Ireland reveals that over 8 in 10 businesses (83%) expect to grow their cybersecurity team over the next twelve months and predicts the cyber security sector could add an additional 10,000 jobs to the Irish economy by 2030.
Recognising the opportunity to equip students with these skills, Microsoft Ireland collaborated with the Technological University (TU) Dublin and ZeroDays to deliver the CyberSchools Quest programme. It culminated in what was the largest ‘capture the flag’ cybersecurity event held for post-primary schools in Ireland to mark Cybersecurity Awareness Month which takes place across the month of October each year.
The CyberSchools Quest programme helps to address the cyber skills gap by focusing on developing cyber capabilities across a range of key domains such as confidentiality (keeping data secure); phishing, identifying common social engineering strategies; and reconnaissance, using open source-intelligence to find information online. The initiative also helps to foster computational thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills.
CyberSchools Quest centered around a week-long series of cyber learning sessions and hands-on challenges designed to introduce post-primary school students to the world of cyber security. Leveraging content developed by ZeroDays in collaboration with TU Dublin, CyberSchools Quest was then delivered in the immersive learning environment within Microsoft Dream Space.
Schools visited Microsoft Dream Space to take part in the week-long series with the final event bringing all students together at Microsoft Ireland’s campus in Leopardstown, Dublin. Here students competed across a number of cybersecurity ‘capture the flag’ challenges. On completion students could apply for a digital badge accredited by TU Dublin, while the winning team, CBS Mullingar from County Westmeath, were crowned CyberSchools Quest champions and can go on to undertake an opportunity to represent Ireland at the European Cybersecurity Challenge finals in 2024.
James O’Connor, Microsoft Ireland Site Leader and Vice-President Microsoft Global Operations Service Centre, said: “We were delighted to mark Cybersecurity Awareness Month by welcoming over 400 secondary school students from across Ireland to the inaugural CyberSchools Quest event at our campus in Dublin. A central part of our mission is to skill up Ireland with the in-demand skills for our digital economy. By way of this initiative, we were able to focus on developing cyber security skills in our young people, opening their minds to not only the changing nature of cyber threats but the job opportunities within the sector.
“By joining forces with TU Dublin and ZeroDays we are helping to ensure that the next generation are provided with fun and engaging ways to develop these capabilities. The enthusiasm demonstrated by the students at CyberSchools Quest underpins the importance of events such as this and of industry partnering with the education sector to unlock the opportunities of our digital world. I’d like to thank all the students who participated and importantly their schools and teachers for taking the time to bring them to the events.”
The CyberSchools Quest initiative builds on a collaboration between Microsoft Ireland and TU Dublin focused on supporting the development of Cloud, Cyber and Datacenter skills through existing and new potential courses delivered at TU Dublin. Working together Microsoft and TU Dublin have committed to supporting initiatives that provide greater access into these skilling programs while also remaining focused on the promotion of STEM based programs connecting with existing initiatives such as Microsoft Dream Space.
Speaking about the partnership Dr Anthony Keane, the Head of School of Informatics and Cybersecurity said: “TU Dublin and Microsoft Ireland have forged a strong partnership over recent years as together we aim empower learners and teachers with the skills, they’ll need for a world increasing shaped by technology. The new CyberSchools Quest event builds on those strong ties by equipping secondary school students with in-demand cyber security skills and other problem-solving and computational skills so they are prepared for the digital future that lies ahead.
“Channeling the curiosity and creativity of our young people into digital technology and cyber security at CyberSchools Quest is an important step in addressing digital skills gaps and building a foundational awareness of best practice cyber security. We’re proud to join Microsoft and ZeroDays in bridging the skills gap and supporting the next generation of young people achieve more through technology.”
Ciaran Curran, teacher at Largy College, Clones, Monaghan said: “We were delighted to be at Microsoft Ireland’s campus with our students and have the opportunity to join others from across Ireland for CyberSchools Quest. Through this experience the students have been able to learn new cyber skills and put them to the test. It has not only helped to spark an interest in STEM among the students, it has also opened their eyes to the career opportunities that exist in the cybersecurity sector and helped them to believe that perhaps one day they could become the cybersecurity leaders of the future.”
To learn more about CyberSchools Quest and Microsoft Dream Space, please visit: dreamspace.ie