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Starting from a tiny project in 2017, with the main purpose of establishing lasting relationships with Russian universities, Kaspersky Academy has grown into an independent department in Kaspersky that makes cybersecurity knowledge and skills available for a vast range of communities. Head of Kaspersky Academy Denis Barinov has brought his vision to reality, stating that cybersecurity is both important and enjoyable. By collaborating with about 80 universities, dozens of commercial companies, and hundreds of individual experts from more than 25 countries, Kaspersky Academy created a portfolio of educational products to increase cybersecurity awareness for everyone.
The portfolio consists of over 10 products and includes interactive platforms, games, adaptive learning courses, simulators, and many others. They help organizations increase their employees’ cyber-awareness and reduce the number of cyber incidents. These products help students and professors learn more about cybersecurity by showing that it can actually be captivating and useful. Denis Barinov believes that increasing awareness in this field will serve when software cannot help to avoid cybercrimes.
The idea of teaching people cybersecurity skills is not new; however, Kaspersky Academy is the first to build a strong concept that covers the whole path from acknowledging what cybersecurity is to using acquired skills in daily life. Thus, a Security Awareness Learning Journey concept was created. It consists of three main parts: Attracting, Learning, and Reinforcement.
Attracting is the part when people get interested in cybersecurity and understand that it is actually a part of their everyday life. People face such issues by receiving phishing emails, making purchases through untrusted websites, etc. However, Kaspersky Academy acknowledges that security awareness is not the first spending priority for individuals or organizations, especially amid the pandemic. To attract people and form a positive message, a GAT (Gamified Assessment Tool) and KIPS (Kaspersky Interactive Protection Simulator) were created. GAT is a game in which a player votes with virtual money for decisions that can have different effects. KIPS has more than 10 scenarios for different industries and situations that can be played in teams.
The learning part teaches people about security without being boring or overwhelming them with information. Here Denis with his team developed two products: KASAP (Kaspersky Automated Security Awareness Platform) and KAOT (Kaspersky Adaptive Online Training). The tools allow people to take courses depending on their cybersecurity awareness and give them portions of well-balanced knowledge and questions.
Reinforcement is the most difficult part. Denis’ team’s main goal is to provide information and fun and motivate people to act differently. For this, a phishing simulator was developed. It sends phishing-like emails and tests users' awareness. "Here we're trying to achieve that very moment when people don't act like 'got it, I need to change the WiFi router password, so I'll go get some hotdogs for dinner' but actually stand up and get their router password changed," Denis laughs.
More tools will soon be developed, for instance, KIPS-VR (Kaspersky Interactive Protection Simulator - Virtual Reality) and a mobile role game. Denis believes that this concept and portfolio are unique and that no company has ever made a cybersecurity mobile role game for both learning and fun.
When Denis joined Kaspersky, he was in charge of developing relationships with Russian universities and providing information security training. Soon he realized that his task went beyond signing agreements and reading the courses. With his team, he started offering more services to Universities (like Capturing The Flag games with students) and keeping in touch with every contact. In 2018 Kaspersky Academy increased the list of partners from 2 to 75 Universities. "It's not just a list of contracts that we signed with universities, there are real people who we talk to, collaborate with, or help them with their initiatives," Denis says.
Interacting with communities and widening the range of services opened new opportunities to enter the Security Awareness market, increasing by almost 20% each year. Kaspersky Academy combined a methodological base with technology and created an innovative approach to cybersecurity learning. Inspired by the success, they’re moving forward to create new tools and having all those buzz-words like adaptive learning and VR in their portfolio.
It’s already evident that companies like the products of Kaspersky Academy. People enjoy playing the games and using the simulators, while organizations enjoy an easy way to stay cyber-secure and reduce costs. It’s also a good thing that people are starting to be more interested in cybersecurity. Kaspersky offers an opportunity to fill in the gaps and allow anyone to learn something new easily. The initiative also attracts young people in the field so they can eventually become cybersecurity specialists.
The innovation corresponds with Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Quality Education) by making very conservative security education available to students, teachers, employees, and employers. It also invests in developing sustainable communities. It helps fight digital inequality in its different forms by giving all people a chance to stand for themselves against cybercriminals and bullying in cyberspace.
The whole idea of Kaspersky Academy is to increase awareness in cybersecurity and enlarge the company’s commercial potential. The products are being sold to various companies and organizations. For instance, the scenario of an airport in KIPS was designed for Brussels Airport, and then it was included in the package of scenarios. Kaspersky is gaining both direct and indirect profits from the innovation:
1) The income from selling the products
2) Reputation and trust for current clients
3) Attraction of new clients
4) Attraction of potential employees
And of course, there are the benefits of increasing the knowledge base about learning methodologies, the clients' demands, and other insights.
The social impact of the Kaspersky Academy is perceived as a long-lasting innovation that will eventually result in a high level of consciousness and awareness. Many people have tried the products and have rated them highly; however, for now, there is no clear data on whether any particular product has fundamentally changed users' behavior in a community. With his team, Denis has set an ambitious goal for the next year – to launch a research project, together with universities, to study how Kaspersky Academy products influence people’s thoughts and actions.
Denis believes that one should not rely only on technology for security. Most malicious acts are performed by using only social engineering. Users tend not to notice that it’s strange to give someone their credentials or enter passport information to buy products online. "A safe user is a user that has no Internet connection... but not always, he can carry some confidential documents in his suitcase!" Denis admits. He also believes it’s good to invest in awareness, even if the results are not seen immediately.
Now Kaspersky Academy is developing a new module for the KASAP platform that will include training women on how to resist bullying in cyberspace. They also are designing new features about electronic governments, new scenarios for industries, a mobile game for everyone, and many other things that one day will have a synergetic effect and improve everyone’s life.
Denis Barinov, Head of Kaspersky Academy
Kaspersky is a global cybersecurity company that provides security solutions for B2B and B2C segments. The company's mission is to build a safer world where everyone can enjoy technology and be protected from cyberthreats.