Security of digital information is a major societal challenge. Georgia is keeping up with the global trend of developing cyber-security and interest in this field is noticeably increasing. GRENA, the Georgian Research and Educational Networking Association, is working with CERT.GOV.GE – the Georgian Governmental Computer Emergency Response Team – to nurture the country’s next generation of cyber specialists through a series of initiatives funded by the EU through its Eastern Partnership Connect project.
The National Cyber-security Olympiad, CyberCube, has been running in Georgia since 2016. This annual contest aimed at the under 25s is designed to stimulate young minds and brings a level of prestige to those who take part. Participants are tasked with finding solutions to a number of cyber crises and their fallout.
Designed to complement this is an online portal, Cyber-Lab.Tech. On the platform, users can find tasks to challenge themselves and keep up to date with current developments in the sector. Many students progress to the portal after first taking part in CyberCube.
Tornike Archvadze, who attends Komarov Public School, explains how he first got involved: “I was always interested in computers and the internet in my childhood. When I grew up, I had the opportunity to participate in CyberCube and try my skills in the field of cyber security. Now I practise almost every day on the portal.”
And he is not the only one making the progression. Sandro Khokhiashvili, a student at the Free University, followed a similar path. He first participated in CyberCube with two of his friends in 2017: “We unexpectedly took second place and that inspired me to sign up for CyberCube 2018. The whole experience has been very important to me.”He now spends his free time doing exercises on the Cyber-lab.tech portal to keep up to date on new developments.
The portal is designed to encourage skills of detection and reaction in IT students and support professionals working in the sector. In June 2019 the portal won the Georgian IT Innovation Award. David Kvatadze, who is the head of CERT.GOV.GE is pleased with the project’s engagement so far.
“It is a unique opportunity for individuals interested in cyber security,”he explains. The uptake has also made him consider expanding the project. “We now have plans to increase the number of exercises and translate them into English to make the resources available for other countries.”
The initiatives are also encouraging Georgians to think more seriously about cyber security. Khokhiashvili says, “I think the main value of these tournaments and platforms is to promote cyber security in Georgia. It is a topic that neither the young nor employers and universities are paying enough attention to.”
Archvadze is definitely keen to learn more. “I am very happy that events like this are happening in our country, giving us opportunities to exercise and improve our skills. It helped me discover a field in which I would be happy to continue for the rest of my life.”
The EaP Connect programme (2015-2020 – €13 million) supports connections between researchers and students from the Eastern Partnership and their European counterparts via a high-capacity broadband Internet network.
This story was first published by the EaP Connect programme.