BLOG | Instruction Innovation in Cybersecurity Education

October 16, 2019

Escape Rooms earns top billing in Innovations in Cybersecurity Education

Sometimes playing games is the best way to learn and is especially helpful with tricky subject matter. The 2019 Innovations in Cyber Education winner in Instruction—Thinking Outside the Box-Using Escape Room Games to Interest Teachers and Students in Cybersecurity—uses challenges that anyone can use to learn more about cybersecurity.
Across the world, a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, students and teachers necessitate unique ways to attract a wider, more diverse audience. Suzanne Mello-Stark, from Rhode Island College, devised this innovative project in an attempt to interest students and teachers in cybersecurity at the K through 12 educational levels.
Capture the Flag events are the most popular tool to teach cybersecurity. Teams of players search for security flaws in a system or network, which when found is the flag. As effective as this mode of teaching is, it has been geared more toward advanced students. The need for a more inclusive game was Mello-Stark’s inspiration.
Escape rooms are a popular activity for friends, family or coworkers to do as a fun or team-building activity. A team is placed in an actual room set up with furniture or props, where they search for clues that lead them to the exit in a designated amount of time. This cybersecurity version is similar. Players learn a new cybersecurity principle when they uncover clues within their surroundings. They must work together to uncover solutions to reach the solution.
The Escape the Suitcase challenge is portable. Participants receive a card set that simulates a suitcase and physical objects inside. They also are given a Python script, where they can enter guesses and advance to the next level. The first challenge is to unlock the briefcase using only a birthday card, making students think about password strength, for example. It continues in this manner until they get to the end.
This game helps increase self-efficacy, promotes teamwork and encourages critical thinking while promoting cybersecurity principles and skills.
So far, the game has garnered success and attention in addition to this award. Mello-Stark held a workshop on this new teaching method at the 2018 Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) conference. It was featured at the 2018 USENIX workshop on Advances in Security Education, and was transformed into an IOS application as part of a graphic design project at George Washington University. The game is even being used at a few NSA-sponsored GenCyber camps across the country.
Everyone is having fun while learning about cybersecurity, and they might not even realize it. Who said playing games was a bad thing?
Read more about this Innovative submission on page 13 of the publication HERE.