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Stepping up cyber security skills

In the heart of Kaiti, Tairawhiti Technology Trust (TaiTech) has partnered with an American multinational tech firm to provide a gateway into the cybersecurity industry.

Cisco Systems has been around since the early days of computing and specialises in networking software and hardware, the backbone of shared computer systems.

TaiTech is an approved Cisco Network Academy meaning they can teach and host cybersecurity courses in their computer lab, aimed at getting locals into an information technology (IT) career.

As one of the best-paid types of jobs in New Zealand, IT certainly has its benefits.

“My honest opinion for signing up to the course was money and travel,” said Otiria Para who was taking one of the Cisco courses.

Around 50 students are enrolled in the cybersecurity course in Oceania with seven right here in Gisborne.

But the tech industry does have its challenges.

“When I started doing the course I wasn't aware of how difficult it was to protect our networks and technology.”

And there are plenty of scams, hacks and malware on the internet to keep IT professionals busy.

Computer Emergency Response Team New Zealand (CERT NZ) released its annual summary for 2020 last week which showed a 65 percent increase in cybersecurity incidents compared with 2019.

From those reported incidents, $16.9 million was lost to hackers and scammers.

Students in the Cisco cybersecurity courses learn everything from the characteristics of online criminal activity to the basics of computer networks, their flaws and weaknesses.

One of the reasons Cisco made the course is because there is a desperate need for more people to work in the industry.

“They're really keen for more staff,” said tutor Carolyn Carpendale.

As part of the cyber ops course, there is a task to search online on how many job opportunities are in your region.

One girl taking the course in Australia was sharing with others in the online cohort and said she found some 900 roles available near her, said Mrs Carpendale.

Cisco Systems predicts a total of 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs that will go unfilled globally this year.

There are even job opportunities and interviews for students who do well in the course and show they are motivated, said TaiTech trustee Te Aorangi Harrington.

The programme has three levels, each one moving into more difficult territory.

At the end of the course, high-achieving students have the opportunity to get sponsored entry into the Cyber Associates Certification programme, skipping the $1000+ price tag.

The first level is the Introduction to Cybersecurity and then the Cybersecurity Essentials, and the final course is CyberOps Associate, where students learn to monitor, detect and respond to cybersecurity threats.

The first two levels take around two weeks to complete and the third will take longer. However, the course is self-paced so it depends on the student as to how quickly they want to proceed through the programme.

The benefits will be not only to the ones who graduate, but also to the friends, whanau and the wider community who get to understand more about keeping safe online.

HIGH TECH SECURITY: Omanaia Para, tutor Te Aorangi Harrington, tutor Carolyn Carpendale and Otiria Para. Picture by Liam Clayton