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teen wants to legitimately learn about cyber security

(16 Posts)
clangermum Fri 31-Mar-17 09:33:54

My son is 13 and has been saying he wants to pursue cyber security in a possible higher ed / professional capacity. This is huge as he's drifting at school and although really interested in IT, finds lessons underwhelming but does lots of clever stuff at home (way beyond my understanding). I don't think at this point he has any darker motive, like hacking the school system....but how do I encourage him safely? Is there anything he can study online independently (webinars etc?) to help motivate him? Any ideas welcome.

akkakk Fri 31-Mar-17 09:51:07

I would be very cautious about his learning this online and without supervision - he could very very easily be sucked into the dark net and that would be a very negative outcome...

the two categories of development he could really work on are:
- code
- hardware

as cyber security is focused on those two sectors - ultimately it is a mixture of the two (and business practices which are most often the weakness!)

code - he can work on this by simply having a website to play with - hosting and a domain is all he needs... anything on the stackexchange system of websites is a good support network

hardware, he needs to start small (raspberry pi etc.) and then work his way up - you can probably buy old kit such as routers / etc. on ebay and he can connect to them at home and start to work on how they operate...

however in all of this - the ideal would be to have someone who can mentor him - it is worth seeing whether someone in IT (support or academic) at school could help - depends totally on the school, I know one school where a boy like this was found trying dodgy hacking, and turned to help the school by stress testing their systems - win win.

in the absence of that I would google some cyber security firms and contact them to ask how he could get involved - that enthusiasm would be really interesting for some - if our firm was doing that work, it would be exactly the type of future employee I would want and the opportunity to shape them now would be fantastic...

or even contact GCHQ and ask how he could start to get involved - they may have advice...

ultimately - support him, if he has an inclination for this work then it is a fab and very necessary career (for society) ahead - but please do not let him just play online without understanding what he is doing - it can be a very tricky subject to navigate online without guidance and can go wrong without meaning to... and the online world has some very nasty areas...

clangermum Fri 31-Mar-17 14:58:28

Thank you akkakk that sounds like great advice

comeagainforbigfudge Fri 31-Mar-17 15:42:44

just found this course and thought it might help you, well if you can find a similar degree via UCAS, that way it will show him what subjects/grades he needs at school.

Alongside all the advice given above. I haven't a scoobie about coding etc im old! hth

clangermum Fri 31-Mar-17 16:02:54

Thank you!

akkakk Fri 31-Mar-17 16:23:04

It is worth adding / reinforcing...

this kind of learning is usually done in peer groups / with mentors - hacking (whether white or black - good or bad) is a process of trial and error - puzzle solving etc. which is learned by doing it and bouncing ideas off each other... ideally therefore finding a responsible adult who can support / monitor a bunch of teens is ideal - doing it on your own / learning through online courses is not the ideal - it is much harder, and the danger with it is that the communities online become attractive - and I can not stress strongly enough how dangerous some of those communities can be - on the surface they can seem very innocuous and attractive to a child / teen - but underneath there is a lot of crime and other dodgy stuff going on - basically the law doesn't matter - in any area, and without wanting to be alarmist - that doesn't just mean in the field of hacking or puzzle solving - it really does mean in any area... I would not want any child / teen I cared about playing in those areas...

I totally support / encourage / love this way of thinking in youngsters, I started my IT doing the same in very innocent terms 30+ years ago - but it was easy to do it without risk then, it is not the same now - so absolutely number 1 priority is for any responsible adult to understand what the risks are / what is happening / keep an eye on it - and if the OP is like any other parent they may well not have the knowledge to do that - so be cautious...

meditrina Fri 31-Mar-17 19:35:36

GCHQ do internships (various locations) but IIRC only for post-GCSE.

228agreenend Fri 31-Mar-17 19:38:44


Will this interest your son? My son as done other Smallpiece courses before and has loved them.

228agreenend Fri 31-Mar-17 19:40:19

Not sure the link worked.

Google The Smallpeice Trust. They are running a free Cyber security course for secondary school students, and it's free.

228agreenend Fri 31-Mar-17 19:40:55

Also, consider Raspberry Pi.

OddBoots Fri 31-Mar-17 19:45:56

If he wants to do stuff online then might be a good start.

ThreeFish Fri 31-Mar-17 19:48:26

It's not all about hacking!

Although in terms of code, he will need to be familiar in C, Java, Python etc. Maybe start with learning the languages.

DontCallMeBaby Fri 31-Mar-17 19:49:48

He's in th age group for one of these although applications aren't open for that one yet. The others look like thy could be worth keeping an eye out for in future years.

TheHobbitMum Fri 31-Mar-17 20:06:18

There is a course avail free from the smallpeice trust? I've just signed up my son for it smile

Oops just seen its been mentioned LOL

CuteOrangeElephant Sat 01-Apr-17 17:12:28

Just make sure he's aware of the ethics.

This is a website full with games, if anything it will learn him a lot about Linux!

clangermum Sat 01-Apr-17 18:20:40

Really helpful responses, thank you. And I totally take on board the issue of a mentor and have approached school to help find one (outside school that is, but by referral). I had no idea about the resources out there.

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