Internet of Things: With great power comes great responsibility - we have to prepare our youngsters to fight cybercrime

Mark Horneff
"Let’s prepare our youngest generation for a cyber battle" (Source: Getty)

Among the myriad manifestations of modernity, nothing evokes a sense of sci-fi quite like the Internet of Things (IoT). In case any minds need refreshing, this is the phrase coined to describe everyday objects that can connect with the Internet, collecting and exchanging data without the need for human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

The stuff that Pixar dreams are made of, the IoT is an incessant network of devices, machines, and appliances all talking to each other. It is more than just hype: from smart fridges to smart watches to smart cars, IoT has proved a booming trend among investors.

Its growing prominence is certainly valuable for its problem-solving potential, such as heightened home security. However, with great power comes great responsibility. The ubiquity of the word “things” means that, when it comes to the question of what can be connected, the possibilities are endless.

Unsurprisingly, this can prove perilous.

As more digital solutions to the physical world arise through the IoT, so does the threat of malevolent people manipulating them for spiteful use through cyber security attacks. This can have gravely physical results, such as the hacking of driverless cars – particularly alarming if said cars contain human passengers.

Read more: What the UK could learn about the Internet of Things from India

So, the question arises: how do we fight these contemporary criminals? The answer lies with the people – we need to mobilise a workforce with computing skills, of which there is a dangerous lack. It’s predicted that there will be 750,000 IT jobs in the UK to fill by 2017, yet last year there were only 50,000 computer science graduates. For cyber security specifically, there will be a shortage of 1.5 million trained infosecurity professionals by 2020 worldwide.

Instead of attempting to upskill current workers, energy and resources must be directed towards inspiring young digital natives. This engagement starts at school, further facilitated last year when computing replaced ICT in the UK national curriculum. This move means new generations of students will be future-proofed for careers in an increasingly digital economy.

Most pressingly, however, coding in classrooms equips more young people with the digital skills required to combat rapidly rising cyber crime. Clearly, this is a vital change, as the real-life consequences of cyber crime are so dangerous. Moreover, by including computing in the curriculum across schools nationwide, students from all social backgrounds can benefit from this education overhaul, maximising the UK’s “white hat” workforce.

This is where the value of unique, modern, and digital teaching methods becomes more important than ever: the more vivid the stimulus around learning, the more likely a child will engage in the experience. This approach is exemplified by educational gaming, which bolsters engagement both inside and outside of the classroom.

As for teachers, a well-designed digital learning environment provides rich stimulus for classroom conversation. Coding, after all, is a language, having recently overtaken French in popularity.

Now, the time has come for a call to arms. Let’s prepare our youngest generation for a cyber battle that, over the impending decades, will inevitably continue to dominate offices and homes alike.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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