February 22, 2024

Learning that there is no escape from hackers

There’s no lack of online security threats posed by the digital age, but a new mobile ‘Cyber Escape’ experience from CGI is not only deeply informative on the subject – but also highly entertaining, reveals Nan Spowart

HACKING is serious subject,  but learning about the subject can also be a thrilling experience – a notion currently being proven by CGI, one of the largest independent IT and business consulting services firms in the world. Constructed with the help of Scottish firm Boundless Workshops, a 40ft shipping container  kitted out as a ‘mobile escape room’ has been thrilling participants across the country with its cyber security theme and fun, informative challenges.

Everyone from company employees to school children have been taking part in the new CGI Cyber Escape experience, with the feedback so far being “amazing”, according to Richard Holmes, CGI in the UK’s head of cyber security. “We have been delighted with how well it has gone down with people and how it seems to capture their imagination,” he said. The escape room is completing a stay in Aberdeenshire as part of a nationwide tour, with a return to other locations in Scotland planned next year. 

It only began touring south of the border a few months ago, but the experience has already been shortlisted in the National Cyber Awards because of its innovative approach to the subject. Cyber security is becoming vitally important for individuals, companies, schools, universities, local and national government and other organisations and the escape room is designed to drive the message home – but in a fun and accessible way. It is also hoped that schoolchildren who use it will be inspired into considering a career in cyber security, or technology more generally.

While CGI has an exemplary record in community outreach as well as client and employee engagement, this innovation is quite different from its usual approach.
“We are normally a fairly serious company working on serious projects so this is a bit different for us but it has been great to do,” said Holmes. “We see it as a new and innovative way to engage with various stakeholders and the community around the subject of cyber security. We recently put all of our senior leadership team through it and they loved it and gave great feedback.”

Escape rooms have become increasingly popular in recent years and CGI’s was constructed with the help of Edinburgh-based Boundless Workshops. “They did a great job,” said Holmes. “We did a lot of work with them to get the balance of making it cyber security themed, with proper messaging and lessons, but it is still very much an escape game. It touches on issues like phishing and how one misguided click can be a risk and allow you to get breached, as well as physical security such as making sure information is disposed of correctly. It also has messages about choosing your passwords, the need to be careful on social media about what you give away and what you can do to make sure your organisation does not have a cyber attack, as well as mitigating the effects if there is one.”

The need to stress the importance of cyber security is increasing as society becomes more technology dependent. CGI’s own clients are aware of the risks and it has become a major priority for many of them. “Every year we interview all our clients about their business and IT priorities going forwards, and for the last few years cyber security has been mentioned more often than any other topic as being a priority,” said Holmes. “That is for a number of reasons, including the well-publicised attacks that disrupt services and the need to make sure data protection and privacy legislation is adhered to.”

Holmes said cyber security would become even more important as Smart Places initiatives become more common. “These are all about making use of, and getting the benefit from, connected devices to provide new and enhanced services for people whether it is local authorities trying to improve refuse collections or traffic management. There is a continual drive to making more things connected and they are all drivers for making sure you take cyber security seriously,” he said. 

During the game, participants learn basic security practices such as the importance of protecting privacy, creating strong passwords, device and document handling and navigating social media. The challenges are suitable for young people at secondary school and demonstrate how to navigate today’s complex digital world in a safe and secure manner. Participating schools and colleges receive a certificate including security learning outcomes for distribution to the students. The whole experience is facilitated by a CGI Games Master from a separate on-site control room.
CGI intend to use the escape room not only to engage with their clients, schools, and other organisations but also with their own employees to heighten their awareness of cyber security. 

The escape room was in Aberdeenshire from 1-15 October where it was based at Kenway Academy. “Aligned to their curriculum they gained an understanding of their own cyber responsibilities and the consequence of not following guidelines,” said Lynne Huckerby, CGI’s healthcare director. “This will give them an understanding of real world scenarios and the chance to understand best practice in a fun, safe and interactive environment.”  

She explained that CGI planned to bring the Cyber Escape Experience on an extensive tour of Scotland next year.  “We hope that by then the impact of the pandemic on the health and care services, whose employees we plan to be one of the main audiences for the tour, will be stabilised,” she said. 
Added Holmes: “Community engagement is important to us and so is getting more people to pursue a career in cyber security. This is another mechanism and a bit more of a fun way to get pupils thinking about that.”


This article was brought to you in association with CGI