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South West students get taste for cybersecurity careers in national competition

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Students from the South West are getting a taste of fast-paced careers in cybersecurity and protecting businesses from cyber crime as they pit their problem-solving skills against more than 140 teams across Australia in an annual cyber defense competition.

Twelve students from Bayview College in Portland and Emmanuel College in Warrnambool accepted a challenge to the region’s schools laid down by The Hive, South West TAFE’s innovation hub, and formed four teams for the annual CyberTaipan competition run by the Digital Careers division of the Australian Government’s CSIRO agency.

The teams are provided with a set of virtual images representing different computer operating systems and receive points for finding and fixing security vulnerabilities, strengthening systems, and maintaining critical services over two six-hour rounds of competition. 

The four teams completed round one on 10 September and are competing in round two Friday 15 October with the help of a cybersecurity industry professional assigned by the competition organisers. Points gained from both rounds will be combined with the top 10 teams progressing to the national final on 30 October.

The teams are being supported by their teachers and coached by The Hive at South West TAFE’s co-ordinator and innovation specialist Paul Dillon who saw an opportunity to engage secondary school age students to consider further education and careers in cybersecurity. 

Digital careers that can find a home in the South West

“Families, businesses and schools in the South West are connected to the internet through many devices 24/7 and the risk of cyber crime and disruption increases the more time we spend online. Cybersecurity addresses these risks and is a fast-growing, high-paid, fast-paced career with surprisingly creative capacity” said Mr Dillon.

“These are careers that could be performed remotely from anywhere in the world and hopefully we can grow and retain some of this talent locally - living in our communities - while working to protect global companies and businesses here in the South West” he added.

“We’re delighted that the teachers and students at Bayview and Emmanuel Colleges accepted the challenge and we hope more secondary schools in the region will join with us and compete in 2022” he concluded.

Girls dominate composition of Portland teams

Portland’s teams are bucking an IT industry trend with girls outnumbering boys across their two teams.

“CyberTaipan has been a great opportunity for our students to connect and compete in a challenging and collaborative environment on real world style cybersecurity tasks” said Melinda McKenzie, Learning Team Advisor - Digital Technologies at Bayview College, Portland.

Mr Dillon hopes to support more students to enter the CyberTaipan competition in 2022 and encourages teachers and students to contact The Hive at South West TAFE to express their interest.

Hosted by the CSIRO, the annual CyberTaipan competition is open to secondary school students and is modelled on the US Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program. Competitions are also run in the US, UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia.