FERGUS – Pushing to create public awareness on the importance of cyber security education, Centre Wellington District High School (CWDHS) computer tech teacher Tim King has been shortlisted for a Cyber Security Award in the category of Cyber Security Influencer of the Year.
The Cyber Security Awards, established in 2014, reward the best individuals, teams and companies within the cyber security industry.
The Cyber Security Influencer of the Year award is for an influencer raising the profile of cyber security internally or externally from their organization.
The recipients of the 2021 Cyber Security Awards will be announced Dec. 9.
King, who was nominated for the award by a friend, thought to himself there was no way he was going to win when applying for the award.
“I’m a high school teacher,” he explained, “and if you looked up any of the other names, they’re all CEOs of companies. It’d be like me going up against Elon Musk or something.”
King went ahead and filled out the form just to see what would happen and on Nov. 23, he came into work and the first email of the day was from the organization, notifying him he had been shortlisted.
“I was astonished,” he said of the news. “Like I said, I didn’t think I’d be anywhere in the ball park and hundreds and hundreds of people evidently applied for it and to be shortlisted in the top 10 is just astonishing. I kind of feel like I already won.
“It feels like it’s a real uphill struggle to get (cyber security) recognized as an important field of study,” he added. “It’s so new and everyone depends on it so much without realizing it.”
King said as an educator, he’s been pushing to get the education system on board with the idea of teaching cyber security in the curriculum, but it’s been a struggle.
“A long time ago somebody once told me, teachers are public-facing intellectuals, so I’ve always kind of taken that to heart.”
With cyber security being such a new concept to many, King recognized there was a need to explain and educate people on it.
“The more I got into it, the more I realized how perilous everything is. If you actually start to understand what the threatscape looks like, in the background, it’s horrifying,” he explained.
“The idea that so much of our lives are available virtually and people are really oblivious to it.”
King said he’s always tried to be public facing with the idea of cyber security.
Through social media, blogs and presenting at conferences, he’s worked to emphasize to the public how critical the infrastructure is.
“I think through all of that combined together, I reached some kind of critical mass in their calculations,” King said of being recognized for the award. “They said, ‘you’re what we’re looking for.’”
King was first introduced to the threats of cyber security in 2017 when he took CWDHS’s Cyber Titan team to nationals and found himself at a cyber security conference.
“It was this really major moment, one of the first cyber security conferences in Canada, and everybody kept saying the same thing: we are perilously open to attack we really are not prepared for … and I thought ‘this is crazy, why aren’t we teaching this in school?’”
He noted there are no cyber security courses in the school curriculums in Ontario, but he’s been “banging the drum” for it since 2017.
“Honestly, when they told me I’d been put up for this, I just said to them, ‘all this enables me to do is provide a little more leverage to try and maybe make this happen in Ontario,’” King said of the influencer award.
“There’s no interest,” he added. “We all depend on this every day but no one’s willing to teach it. We’ve got to do something about that.”
Through his advocacy, King is hoping to initiate a digital skills course, so everyone understands basic privacy online and how to protect themselves.
“I think for people who are working in the industry … you’re kind of in an echo chamber,” King explained.
“I’m not I’m standing out in a desert desperately trying to get people to pay attention to this, but at least I am out there in the desert.”
He said public education has a key role to play in moving the awareness forward, noting the pandemic has only highlighted the need further.
“If there was ever a time for sort of cyber literacy to become a more genuine general thing in the population, this is the moment.”
King said he hopes to keep the momentum going, adding the board has been very supportive of his work.
“We love raising the temperature of the sea there, we try and bring everybody up with us,” King said. “Everyone relies on this stuff so we should all understand how it works.”