February 2019 marked the start of an epic pilot project for New Brunswick education. Years of planning by many partners had gone into curriculum development for a Cybersecurity 120 course. The Department of Education, Cyber New Brunswick, industry experts and experienced teachers designed a course relevant for the industry of today and tomorrow. Caledonia Regional High School of Anglophone East School District is one of the schools in the province offering the pilot this year. Students work daily on labs, units of related study, international competition and provincial competition. The students at Caledonia Regional have found success in many of the course’s challenges.
I designed a lesson that had my students explore their physical school for vulnerabilities. Working with the school’s custodian I arranged several usually locked and latched windows and doors to be left opened. Students then searched the building for both known and unknown potential access points. It demonstrated that you can’t just assume an access point is secure and that a system of checks can result in fine security work. Grade 11 student Hope Steeves (@HopeSteeves) said of the experience “I noticed how much it was just like computer vulnerabilities. Mr. Kelly made us realize we should never assume a system is safe.” By getting up from desks and exploring a system from the inside helped students better understand how the process works with computers. Student Faith Christopher (@FirewallFaith) said “I understood it better than I would with a PowerPoint lesson. By doing this activity I could visualize the school as a computer system and the different entrance points available for threats.” Grade 12 student David Wood sums it up more succinctly by adding "Cybersecurity is like animal life, you always have someone trying to take you down.”
Projects like the vulnerability search are rarities as this pilot course has students at desks learning to protect and defend computer systems for hours each week. Learning via international competition as part of the Cyber Patriot / Cyber Titan program is now further supported by New Brunswick’s own Cyber Defence Hub competition. Students fix corrupt systems in a limited timeframe and report scores to provincial administration of the competition. These are really engaging experiences! Student Faith Christopher says about the competition “We did a Cyber Defence Hub competition and the Russian anthem started playing! We kept focussed and didn’t panic, because whether you panic or not, the same result will happen. Instead we all giggled and kept working.” Hope Steeves echoed this by saying “The Russian national anthem started playing! Our team stayed calm and had a good laugh due to pure shock really.”
Labs are at the heart of this course as students book seats in a remote training server. Labs each have documents which guide students through the configuration of local security policies, firewall rules, BASH scripting, user and group account settings, privacy settings and even remote desktop management. Each lab is mapped to a corresponding curriculum outcome through the hard work of the team at the Department of Education and Cyber NB. Hope and Faith, both grade 11s, are pursuing careers in cybersecurity directly out of high school. They are completing Computer Science 11 and 12 along with this Cybersecurity 120 pilot. This opens the door for powerful Co-op education opportunities in their grade 12 year. The school is also piloting a Mentorship Virtual Co-op program where Caledonia Regional students can use modern video chat technologies to work with experts around the world on authentic tasks while preparing for their careers. Cybersecurity is one of the virtual co-op opportunities for our rural school.
New Brunswick is positioned to be a leader in cybersecurity talent and careers Experiences for students like those at Caledonia Regional aid the Cyber Smart movement. Our students are staying focussed on their goal of being prepared to join and aid the cybersecurity industry as soon as possible. For more information about the Cybersecurity 120 program at CRHS please contact Mr. Kelly at the school.