Using Serious Games technology to educate youth about cybercrime

Students of Wrexham Glyndŵr University (WGU) in North East Wales are on a mission to shield young people from the dangers of cybercrime using Serious Games (SG) technology.

The first UK Cyber Survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) earlier this year revealed that 70% of UK citizens believe they will likely fall victim to at least one specific type of cybercrime in the next two years. 

According to the report, people are “concerned, confused and, to some extent, fatalistic that they will become victims of cyber crime”.

With the help of detective constable William Farrell and specialist task force officers from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, students sought to develop a computer game that would appeal to an audience aged 12-14 years, raising their awareness of cyber security issues in a fun, engaging way.

“I met William while promoting the university and our involvement with Serious Games technology by showcasing a previous project at the Welsh Rally,” Nathan Roberts, senior lecturer in computing at WGU, told The Leader.

“One of the issues Will had was trying to educate and support young people in different areas of Wales around cyber security, and due to the rural nature of the country this has proved difficult,” he explained.

One of the issues Will had was trying to educate and support young people in different areas of Wales around cyber security, and due to the rural nature of the country this has proved difficult

Roberts suggested that the university could help in two ways: firstly, by immersing students in a real-world problem they must try to resolve while learning about cyber security; and secondly, by holding a showcase event that brought different schools and colleges together and granting them access to useful cyber security resources.

“With that in mind, we brought everything together on Glyndŵr’s Plas Coch campus – and this led to the creation of the first CyberTech event this year,” added Roberts.

Students worked alongside the police as part of a module on Serious Games and immersive technology in preparation for the inaugural event.

Arranged by Roberts, the module took participating teams from concept to development, with officers checking in throughout the process to ensure content was impactful and relevant. 

“Every team which took part produced a great game – and two in particular stood out. Those teams were recognised for their outstanding contribution and their games will be used by the police in awareness-raising campaigns,” said Roberts.


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The event’s stand-out creations came from team TitanicGames, whose game Data Defence requires players to defend different systems against various types of cyber attacks by deploying effective defence strategies; and Grym Games, whose Hypernet Case is a Tron-like virtual reality shooter that sees players travel through an infected system, identifying and neutralising various cyber attacks.

“The average age of arrest for a cybercrime is just 17. Young people with excellent computer skills sometimes don’t know that their actions could be illegal,” detective constable Farrell told The Leader.

“For example, it is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 for an individual to use a malicious software tool to knock a friend offline from an online computer game (known as a Denial of Service Attack).

“The challenge is to deliver computer law and ethics awareness to young people in a creative, fun and engaging way.

The challenge is to deliver computer law and ethics awareness to young people in a creative, fun and engaging way.

“It has been a pleasure teaming up with Nathan to deliver the successful CyberTech event – we received really positive feedback from attending schools. The students on the Serious Games Project are a credit to the university.”

The use of SG technology to improve cybercrime awareness in young people falls in line with the UK government’s Cyber Schools Programme. Launched in 2017, the programme pledged £20m to train 14-18 year olds to ensure the UK is “prepared for the future and ready to tackle the growing threat posed by cybercriminals […]”.

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