Cybersecurity education platform receives government funding

The platform is designed to help computing students ‘put theory into practice’ by presenting them with a range of challenges

An innovative cybersecurity hacking and education platform created by academics at Leeds Beckett University has received £32,000 of government funding to help it launch into the commercial market.

Hacktivity Cyber Security Labs is a virtual lab environment that allows computing students to remotely log into virtual machines (VMs) and receive randomly generated security or ethical hacking challenges which are individualised to each user.

The platform features hands-on tasks, league tables, progress monitoring dashboards and instant feedback and challenges through a chatbot.

Dr Z. Cliffe Schreuders, reader in Computer Security and director of the Cybercrime and Security Innovation Centre at Leeds Beckett, designed the Hacktivity platform. He explained: “Hacktivity is the product of nine years of academic research and development. Creating hacking challenges for our students helps them to put theory into practice. We want to make it fun and engaging to learn cybersecurity – so we have been developing a lot of our own software and techniques.”

Hacktivity has a large library of content. It has reportedly all been mapped to the Cyber Security Body of Knowledge (CyBOK) – the national Body of Knowledge informing and underpinning education and professional training for the cybersecurity sector. It aims to challenge students’ skills in areas including systems security and defensive controls, web and network security, ethical hacking and penetration testing, malware analysis, software exploitation, and incident response and investigation. 

The funding boost was awarded as part of Innovate UK’s Cyber Academic Start-up Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP) – which aims to help universities to commercialise cybersecurity research.

During the first stage of the programme, the academic team will receive training to develop a value proposition, carry out market research, and investigate the pathways to commercialising the platform. The team will then pitch for further stages of funding – to begin working with partner organisations and carry out further research and development.

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