Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today announced the launch of a cybersecurity curriculum geared at educating young girls on cybersecurity skills. Launched in partnership with Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital and targeted at Junior Girl Scouts (ages 9-11), the program will help girls safely and defensively navigate the internet, covering fundamental knowledge and best practices across four key domains: personal information and digital footprint; online safety; privacy and security; and cyberbullying. As part of the newly minted program, HPE is also debuting an educational online game, called Cyber Squad, designed to teach children cybersecurity literacy via an interactive, narrative format that takes players through real-life scenarios and simulates the consequences of both risky and safe online behaviors. Girl Scouts who complete the program and game will receive a patch to display on their uniforms/vests certifying their newfound cybersecurity savvy and smarts.
Cyber Squad was developed in Galway by the BAFTA award-winning game studio, Romero Games, and the curriculum was developed by the Women in Cyber Security International (WCSI) based out of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Galway.
Cyber Squad simulates cybersecurity issues such as phishing, cyberbullying and online safety through a narrative, role-playing interface:
Simulating Real-Life Cyber Situations: The game places players and their avatars in real-life social and digital situations with online safety and privacy concerns. Role-playing a main female character, players are asked to assess the risks of the scenarios and dilemmas and decide on their avatar’s next steps in the storyline.
Risks & Rewards: As a result of their decisions, the players then experience either positive or negative outcomes of their choices. They are rewarded for safe decisions, and conversely, witness how risky choices unfold and branch out in the storyline and impact their avatar and her group of friends whether online, at school or home. Via making safe cyber choices throughout each storyline, players are awarded with virtual cyber patches, and must unlock four topical patches across phishing, cyberbullying, online safety, and digital footprint to successfully complete Cyber Squad.
Friendly Competition: Cyber Squad comes with multiple-choice trivia features to quiz players on their earned cybersecurity knowledge, allowing them to test their cyber smarts against peers in face-to-face group settings.
Currently the game is available via a web interface, but will be launched across mobile and desktop platforms in the coming year. The game is also being launched to Girl Scouts as a printable board game, which aims to enable a more interactive style of play in-person.
In addition to teaching girls practical digital skills, the joint curriculum and patch also ties into the Girl Scouts organization’s longer-term pledge to bring 2.5 million girls into the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline by 2025. Statistics show that women are underrepresented in the STEM workforce, with the largest disparities in engineering and computer sciences. Women comprise just 29 percent of the U.S. science and engineering workforce, and according to Cybersecurity Ventures, only 20 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce.
To encourage more girls to discover and excel in STEM fields, Girl Scouts has committed to helping close the gap through robust STEM programming, including launching dozens of new technology and science-focused badges and projects. Seventy-seven percent of Girl Scouts say that because of the organization, they are considering careers in technology. In fact, the HPE Cyber Squad game and cybersecurity patch curriculum were designed and developed pro bono by HPE’s women in cybersecurity employee group, which is dedicated to encouraging and supporting more women in the field.
“Kids are becoming more mobile, networked and connected, but this also comes with alarming risks and dangers. Making basic cybersecurity awareness at a young age is imperative, and as fundamental as safety skills in the physical world, like learning how to cross the street,” said HPE Chief Information Security Officer Liz Joyce. “As someone who tackles cyber risks and crime by day and goes home to a young daughter at night, I know just how critical this education is. Through this collaboration, we hope to arm Girl Scouts with the cybersecurity literacy and knowledge they need to be savvy, secure and safe online, and to empower them to be good digital citizens.”