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Hack South wins cyber challenge with kids’ risk tool

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The winners have been announced of the Gov-X Innovation Challenge, a three-month challenge that saw teams of young innovators working to overcome cybersecurity and online risks.

The challenge was a public-private sector collaboration in which over 90 ideas were submitted in March this year, and the top eight teams then entered a qualifying round where they were mentored by some of South Africa’s top cybersecurity experts.

Working with the CyberSecurity Hub and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, the University of the Western Cape: Future-Innovation Lab partnered with KnowBe4, provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, TrendMicro, BCX, Bi-Technologies, Vox Telecom, NClose, Blck Rhino, and Bi-Tech Africa to host the Gov-X Innovation Challenge.

Participants in the challenge set out to address three key issues:

  • Provide a national competency via the National Computer Security Incident Response team (CSIRT).
  • To prevent and curb online gender-based violence and provide assistance to victims.
  • Raise awareness initiatives for citizens and create general cybersecurity awareness within communities and raise the profile of cybersecurity issues.

The winning team, which received R100,000 to further their idea, is Hack South. Team lead Rebecca Isherwood said the group planned to equip children to protect themselves against cyber risk through a gamified learning experience simulating the real world. “We hope to leave no child behind and make a difference to children and their communities,” she said.

The second prize of R30,000 went to team Ex Machina for their idea for an interactive learning platform to educate users to be safer online; and the third prize of R10,000 was awarded to team Edu [1st] for their plan to build a text recognition engine to alert the authorities when trigger words are used online, so helping protect the victims of gender based violence.

Stephen Osler, co-founder and business development director at Nclose, announced that in addition to prize money, participants in the challenge stood a chance of being awarded an internship at Nclose. He said three internships would be awarded – one in cybersecurity operations, one in cybersecurity defence and one in cybersecurity offence, and that any of the challenge participants were eligible to apply.

Josh Ramsey, co-founder of BeInTouch.org.za, added that a number of participants who had requested ongoing mentorship would also continue to be mentored by his organisation.

Noting the lack of cybersecurity skills in South Africa and across the continent, Anna Collard, SVP of Content Strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa, said the challenge had been organised both to find innovative approaches for cybersecurity response, and to inspire more people to enter the cybersecurity industry.

Deputy director-general head of 4IR PMO, Nomvuyiso Batyi, congratulated the challenge participants and winners, saying: “It has been quite a year for the ICT sector, with the pandemic forcing a reliance on digital like never before, and this demands a more robust cybersecurity infrastructure. Now more than ever we need innovation in cybersecurity – data breaches have grown over 500% and South Africa does not have enough skills and capacity to protect infrastructure, citizens and the private sector.”

She urged young people with the aptitude and talent to look for opportunities in the cybersecurity sector.

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