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Free Resources: PBS Science's NOVA Cybersecurity Lab

Posted Oct 9, 2014
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In recent years, the public has become increasingly aware that today's digital, networked world leaves all of us vulnerable to online attacks from cyber criminals. At the same time, computer experts and educators warn that the U.S. is not preparing young people to navigate this dangerous world, or to fill the good jobs being created to help meet the challenge. Now NOVA has created a free online game for its growing NOVA Labs platform that provides a fun, informative introduction to computer safety, basic coding, and more.

The Cybersecurity Lab ( is a game designed to teach people how to keep their digital lives safe, spot cyber scams, learn the basics of coding, and defend against cyber attacks. Players assume the role of chief technology officer of a start-up social network company that is the target of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. To win, players must complete challenges to strengthen their cyber defenses and thwart their attackers. The Lab also features stories of real-world cyber attacks, a glossary of cyber terms, and short animated videos that explain fundamental concepts like: why cybersecurity is necessary, the tradeoff between privacy and security, basic cryptography (cyber codes), and what exactly hackers are.

The NOVA Labs game consists of four major components:
* Coding Challenge: An introduction to basic coding skills. Players program a robot to navigate a maze using drag-and-drop commands in a Blockly interface that requires no prior knowledge of coding to complete. Blockly uses a visual representation of code as blocks, rather than a scripted programming language.
* Password Cracking Challenge: A series of "password duels" teach players the basics of how attackers might try to crack their passwords and how they can make better, more secure passwords.
* Social Engineering Challenge: Players are presented with two apparently similar emails, websites, or calls. They first have to identify the differences between them and then select which is a scam attempting to steal information or money.
* Network Attacks: As their companies grow, players must buy defenses to protect themselves against a series of cyber attacks. The better players do in the three challenges, the more resources they'll have to buy defenses.

The Cybersecurity Lab can be used by school technology and media specialists as an orientation activity for students before they begin using online resources. English and Social Studies educators can also use the Cybersecurity Lab to reinforce textual analysis skills. Students must find textual evidence, draw inferences, and make judgments about the validity of sources in the Social Engineering Challenge.

NOVA Labs is partnering with organizations to promote the Cybersecurity Lab including Khan Academy, the National Cyber Security Alliance,, the Center for Identity, the Engagement Lab, Games for Change, CyberPatriot, and the Technology Student Association.

Funding for the Cybersecurity Lab provided by Lockheed Martin.

Source: NOVA Labs, and WGBH,

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