Students and staff from a north east college learnt how to keep themselves and others safe online at a cyber security event on Digital Safeguarding Day.
Specialists from Durham Constabulary, Durham County Council and the North East Regional Special Operations Unit, a collaboration between Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham police forces, shared their expertise at the Safer Cyber event.
The event, hosted by New College Durham, took place during Safeguarding Adults Week and saw around 200 people take part in a range of workshops designed to help them to stay safe digitally.
The initiative was organised by the Safer Cyber Working Group, a subgroup of the Safe Durham Partnership, which aims to tackle all aspects of cyber related crime, including financial and identity fraud, harassment, abuse and exploitation.
A range of digital career prospects were promoted during a presentation by the council’s ICT team, which explained the threats faced by, and security arrangements in place to protect, large organisations. Twenty-two-year-old, Lee Bradley, shared his experiences of working in a cyber security role in a Q and A session with fellow students following the presentation. Lee is a student at New College as well as being an ICT apprentice with the county council and a cyber volunteer with Durham Constabulary.
Those interested in careers in the industry also had the opportunity to take part in a Lego-themed group session, where teams worked to protect a fictional organisation against a variety of cyber threats.
Attendees were able to visit Durham Constabulary’s interactive information stand to improve awareness of their own online security, which included checking devices such as phones, tablets and virtual personal assistant technology, including Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant-enabled devices, as well as password checks.
Other sessions focussed on security, scam awareness and online safeguarding issues, whilst health and social care students completed the National Trading Standards’ Friends Against Scams e-learning course. Completing the course means they will be better equipped to give advice and support to potential victims they encounter in their line of work and to spot signs of scams in people’s homes.
Also on show was the college’s HACK video. Created by students, the video highlights the perils of getting involved in illegal hacking activity.
Cllr John Shuttleworth, the council’s Cabinet member for Rural Communities and Highways, including Community Safety, said:
“Tackling and preventing cyber enabled crime is a key priority for the Safe Durham Partnership. Working in collaboration with our partners is essential to enhancing our capability to address the issue, which is thought to be largely under-reported.
“Programmes such as this are vital in raising awareness and educating communities, including the business sector, to protect themselves against cyber-enabled crime. We hope to build on the success of this event by repeating the sessions across other further education sites in the county in the future.”
DI Luke Terry, chair of the Safer Cyber working group, said: “Cybercrime is a rising threat as criminals become more sophisticated, taking advantage of advances in technology and exploiting the vulnerabilities of people especially in the current pandemic.
“Prevention is a key tool in our fight against internet crime and it is more important than ever for us to raise awareness within our communities, so people can protect ourselves against the numerous ways that perpetrators can steal our identities, access our finances and disrupt our businesses.”
New College Durham Principal Andrew Broadbent said: “We were delighted to welcome our colleagues in the police and council to the college to raise the important issues of cyber security with our students.
“The sessions provided our students and staff with valuable information to protect themselves, friends, family and people they work with. The day was really worthwhile, not only for those interested in pursuing a career in the computing industry, but for students with ambitions in all aspects of business and public service, as well as for use in their personal lives.”