Portsmouth graduate’s cyber security platform sees exponential success


A University of Portsmouth computing graduate who set up a free cyber security training platform in his summer holidays, which now has 600,000 users globally and 19 employees, hopes it can plug the skills gap in defending against cyber attacks.

Ben Spring, who graduated with a first-class degree in Computer Science on 16 July, established TryHackMe with Ashu Savani in 2018 after they completed an internship together in London and recognised how difficult it was to learn cyber security.

University of Portsmouth graduate and TryHackMe founder, Ben Spring.

Ben said: “There is a skills gap in cyber security and cyber attacks are increasing at an alarming rate. We need more experts because you have to understand how an attack works in order to defend against it.

“Unfortunately expensive courses and certifications make it hard for individuals to get into the industry, so our hope is that TryHackMe removes as many barriers to entry as possible and helps plug this gap.”

TryHackMe is a free online training platform for learning cyber security through a web browser with content for both complete beginners and seasoned hackers. Users learn through short, gamified real-world labs.

Ben said: “I found the resources you need to learn about cyber security required a high level of technical knowledge and they were often expensive, so I wanted to remove these barriers to learning and establish something for all skill levels.”

Ben reached out to one of his lecturers, Head of the School of Computing, Dr Nick Savage, with the initial concept.

He said: “Nick recognised its value straight away and was a key person in the journey and success of the platform. We wanted to make the users’ learning journey as accessible as possible and felt that ‘gamification’ - adding typical elements of game play to lessons – was really important to make the platform more engaging and effective.

“I feel strongly that learning shouldn’t be boring so we listen to our users all the time to see how we can enhance their learning experience. I think we’re doing so well because we’ve made the platform easily accessible and users enjoy it – they do one lesson and they want to do more. We’ve also worked hard to make sure the platform incorporates lessons and challenges to cater for different learning styles.”

TryHackMe has seen an exponential growth in users during the pandemic, which Ben thinks is largely to do with the ease and fun of the platform, but also because there was such a need for good virtual platforms as people adjusted to new ways of teaching and learning.

The platform now has users all over the world, including school pupils, university students and teachers.

Ben said: “I’m particularly proud of the fact we have users in places like Africa and India, and we’re seeing 100 – 200 new members a day.”

TryHackMe is now used by over 100 schools and universities globally, including the University of Portsmouth as part of an ‘Ethical Hacking’ module, which is about identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in a system.

Dr Savage said: “The vigour with which Ben has approached his vision of removing barriers to entering cyber security is really impressive. He worked tirelessly throughout his degree and on establishing TryHackMe as the go to platform for getting into cyber security. I am really proud of everything he has achieved and look forward to seeing how he will continue to make access easier and easier for all to get into cyber security.”

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