Security Developer, Difenda
A sleek new gaming platform lets Canadian teens develop their cybersecurity skills as they compete for prizes and test-drive a career in this thriving industry while still in high school.
CYWARIA League North, the country’s first fully gamified cybersecurity challenge, launched this fall for Canadian students in grades 11 and 12, except those in Quebec. Registration is open until Oct. 11, 2021.
Its platform features a sleek interface where the challenge details are shared through immersive videos, intel, notifications, and more.”
“Fighting cybercriminals is thrilling, which makes it the perfect premise for a video game,” says Tyson Johnson, CEO of CyberNB, a non-profit Canadian cybersecurity industry organization that partnered with CYBERPRO Global, a cyber education and training provider, on this unique initiative. “But it’s also an incredibly valuable skill set that can lead to high-paying and exciting work in a booming sector. We wanted a fun and realistic platform to get kids and their parents thinking about this highly-lucrative and promising career path.”
Aligning schools, skills, and jobs, CyberNB is empowering the next generation by spearheading initiatives that connect education and training through partnerships to deliver cybersecurity curriculum. These include Cisco’s Networking Academy in New Brunswick schools and upskilling programs like Cyber Bootcamp for people with non-technical backgrounds that are designed to narrow the digital skills gap.
With nearly 90 percent of Canadian kids playing video games, the league is a great way to turn screen time from a time-waster to an opportunity to build real-world skills for a quickly-growing industry. In Canada, cybersecurity represents $1.7 billion in GDP and employs over 11,000 people. And for youth, it’s an exciting, no-risk way to test out the industry.
“This is your opportunity to view it before you do it,” says Connor Brewer, a 20-year-old security developer at Difenda, a leading Microsoft North American cybersecurity company, working out of their new office location in Fredericton, NB, and a student in the University of New Brunswick’s Bachelor of Computer Science program.
He gives CYWARIA League North high marks for its resemblance to his actual work of tracking down cybercriminals and defending networks and data.
The year-long program kicks off in late October, when participants will receive their first of 12 monthly challenges, each closely mirroring the current cyber threat landscape. There’s lots of support along the way, with videos, tutorials, and other resources to help them solve the competitive campaign. To add a little extra incentive, students compete for monthly prizing and for a shot at the grand prize awarded at the end of the series.
Brewer also likes the game’s focus on “blue team,” or defensive strategies. While “red team” cybersecurity professionals work on the offensive to attack systems and identify vulnerabilities, Brewer says that in Canada and the U.S., the vast majority of roles are defensive.
“The real work, day to day, is going to be on the blue team,” he says. “Defending is the most critical thing for North America. That’s our focus.”
Along with the real-life nature of its challenges, Brewer was impressed with the game’s design. Its platform features a sleek interface where the challenge details are shared through immersive videos, intel, notifications, and more. Participants can check their scores, badges, and timers on the dashboard, while the national leaderboard tracks everyone’s standing.
CYWARIA League North isn’t just for hardcore gamers or technical whizzes. It’s open to any student with a laptop or PC, solid internet connection, and basic computing skills. For Brewer, who found his way to cybersecurity through math and computer science, there’s “a position for everyone” in the industry. He encourages anyone who loves problem-solving and the thrill of the chase to give the league a try.
“At the end of the day, the biggest thing that you can do in life is just to seize every opportunity,” he says. “I wasn’t technical in high school, and I would have jumped in.”
And for those competitors like Brewer, who find they love the thrill of the hunt and want to pursue future opportunities for a career in cybersecurity, CYWARIA League North is a great platform to showcase their growing, in-demand skills. There are currently over 8,000 open cybersecurity roles in Canada, ranging from small and large companies to government and working with police and military to combat cybercrime and protect against nation-state attacks.
“Not only is it a fun game, but it’s also an opportunity to give yourself great exposure to these big companies who are looking to build the next generation of talent,” Brewer says. “It’s not just high schoolers playing with high schoolers. Companies are watching.”