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New cybersecurity program to teach Burnaby students to foil hackers

A group of Burnaby students will soon have the skills to thwart online bad guys, thanks to a new cybersecurity program launching in the school district this fall.
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A group of Burnaby students will soon have the skills to thwart online bad guys, thanks to a new cybersecurity program launching in the school district this fall.

The Palo Alto Academy at Cariboo Hill Secondary will offer students a chance to learn about hacking methods – ransom ware, botnets and an array of other threats – and how to stymie them.

By the end of the program, they will have globally recognized cyber-security technician certification.

“With business cyber attacks occurring every 40 seconds and 1.5 million jobs forecast worldwide, students will be well equipped to gain immediate employment in an industry where entry-level salaries are higher than average,” states a district description of the program.

Of course, the dark side of the force pays well too, and that point isn’t lost on school district officials.

“We’re going to include an ethics and a morals aspect to it as well,” director of instruction Garth Errico told the NOW. “It’s like anything else. Kids with a level of knowledge, they can do many things. … They can make a lot of money from the criminal side of it, a lot, but if they’re caught, it’s not so good.”

So far the Grade 11-12 program has 10 students registered, with room for 10 more. It will be a blended format, with online modules and instruction provided by Palo Alto Networks, a leading global cybersecurity company, as well as in-person instruction from teacher Jerry Chen, currently a computer and business teacher at Alpha Secondary.

Palo Alto has worked with post-secondary institutions on similar programs, Errico said, but the company’s first foray into working with high schools will be next year in Burnaby and a few other B.C. districts.

“They’ve taken their university modules and they’ve kind of adapted and built programs for a high school model,” he said.

Errico said the district is in discussions with Kwantlen and BCIT to establish possible post-secondary credit for students who finish the program.

While all the program seats have yet to be filled, Errico said the new course will go ahead next year regardless.

“Usually when things are new, it takes a while to build, but we certainly believe it’s going to be a good program once the word gets out. Sometimes it takes that first year for students to go through.”

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