Finland to offer cyber skills training package to all EU member states

Society and all its services are increasingly located in the online environment, and therefore the cybersecurity skills of citizens are ever more significant. Aalto University and the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications have started a joint initiative with the aim of creating a training package for civic cybersecurity skills shared by all of the European Union.

We discussed the matter with the project’s leader Jarno Limnéll (Professor of Practice, Aalto University, Cybersecurity) and the Finnish National Cyber Security Director Rauli Paananen, and asked what civic cybersecurity skills are, why they are necessary and how the project, funded under the EU’s recovery plan, is to be implemented.

“Our physical and digital worlds are increasingly intersecting, and a large proportion of our daily lives is already taking place in the digital environment. To operate safely in it, one must know the rules of play of the digital world and understand its risks,” Jarno Limnéll explains.

“Cyber skills also encompass responsibility for one’s own actions: trust forms an important element of cybersecurity and building trust begins with one’s own attitudes and responsible action,” Limnéll says.

“Users of digital services must also know how to demand responsibility and safety of services from service providers,” Rauli Paananen adds.

Security, including cybersecurity, is a highly cultural issue, and cultural differences can be wide within the EU’s borders. The global National Cyber Security Index, created in Estonia, measures the preparedness of countries to prevent cyber-threats and manage cyber disruptions. The placements of the EU member states in the ranking range from first to 63rd, so the variation is huge. “Finland came tenth in the NCSI ranking, and we are also among the EU’s top nations in terms of digital development as a whole. But even our cyber culture has room for improvement,” Paananen says.

The first task in the Aalto University project is to carry out a background survey to recognise the differences that exist between EU member states in digital and cyber skills and teaching, and in cybersecurity culture. Only then will it be possible to design a cybersecurity skills training package that is applicable to the whole of Europe.

Jarno Limnéll says that learning digital security skills requires repetition, continuous communication, and motivation. The main objective of the project is to produce a user-friendly, game-like learning platform for civic cyber skills that is open for everyone. Some of the main challenges involve taking account not only of different languages and culture, but also of various age groups. “Training is needed by citizens of all ages,” Limnéll says.

The project could be compared to the “Elements of AI” artificial intelligence course, created by the University of Helsinki and Reaktor and launched during Finland’s EU presidency, which aims to train one per cent of EU citizens in the basic aspects of AI.

“Naturally we have also set our sights high, and we hope that the civic cybersecurity skills training package will be a success right across Europe,” Limnéll says. “The main aim is to bring cyber training and skills throughout the EU up to the same level, especially as compared to cyber skills in the United States and China,” Paananen confirms.

The background survey for the project will be completed by the end of this year, and the duration of the project as a whole is three years.

Katja Laine, Communications and TV Affairs, FiCom