Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable, well-deserved summer break and for those who are going into sixth form this year like me, I hope you got the GCSE results you wanted! This post is about something that I took part in a little while ago but haven’t got the chance to write up until now.
At the end of July I went on a week long residential course, based around the theme of cyber security at the University of Lancaster. CyberFirst Futures is sponsored by GCHQ and NCSC, and is run by the Smallpeice Trust and QA. The particular course I attended was aimed at 15 – 16 year old girls who were looking to study computer science at A Levels or were generally interested in furthering their knowledge on the subject.
I can honestly say that I’ve learnt more about cyber security in a week than I could ever have expected to! The amount of information that we covered was immense and each activity was as stimulating as The next. The course consisted of a combination of theory and practical work; we had lectures on a variety of topics and practical ‘labs’ from around 9 am to 5 pm every day (with breaks in between, of course! – drinks and snacks provided 😉) In the evenings we took part in a range of activities, including quizzes, films, games and even a barbecue at the end of the week. The personal highlight for me was the Treasure Hunt which helped us get to know each other and was highly entertaining. We also got a some free time to spend in our dorms every evening.
Now let’s talk about the content of the course itself. As I have mentioned, we covered a lot of topics within the realm of cyber security, from networks and ports to hacking ethics and just how effective s social engineering can be! There were a whole lot more but these were a few things I can remember off the top of my head. The labs involved things like setting up our own networks, configuring them and even having a go at some hacking using some fun tools and software! We discovered just how important it is to keep a secure password through our password-cracking activity, using brute-force and dictionary attacks. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re enthusiastic about technology and cyber security, you’ll have great fun, trust me. A couple of guest speakers also came in to give presentations which provided us with a useful insight as to how cyber security is applied in the real world.
On the course that I was on, we were each given our own room with an ensuite bathroom. Meals were included with the residential, with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian provided and I thought they were pretty good! However I am sure this will vary from university to university.
Oh, and did I mention that the couse was entirely free? Accommodation, food, lectures… all of it! If you’re enthusiastic about computer science and/or are considering a career in cyber security please don’t pass this amazing opportunity by! There is lots of flexibility with the courses too – they take place at universities all across the UK and there are residential and non-residential courses out there.
Personally, I really enjoyed it and found it immensely interesting but if you’re thinking about applying, be prepared! It’s quite intense (in terms of the amount of work you cover) although there are no expectations to know certain things so don’t be put off by that at all. Having said that though, I found that there was a good balance because of the relaxed evening sessions and the free time we were given. I also forgot to mention that the course leaders were really engaging, organised and more than willing to answer any questions we had, and the residential itself was managed very well by the Smallpeice Trust.
I hope this has been informative and will help you decide whether or not you want to apply to a CyberFirst course! If you want to find out more or apply later on in the year, click here. If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer to them.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!