The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) calls for the development of adequate training and education programs to support the Nation’s cybersecurity needs (Priority III). A critical element of a robust cybersecurity strategy is having the right personnel at every level to identify, build and staff the defenses and responses for our nation. To fulfill these needs, DHS will elevate the exposure of cybersecurity issues in primary and secondary schools through the use of competitions.
The United States needs more cyber defenders…thousands more. However, attracting students to a computer science program is only one piece of the puzzle. We must address a host of other challenges we face in creating cyber defenders. To be effective, students need to obtain practical real-world experience with not only current technologies, but emerging technologies as well. Cybersecurity competitions are focused on not only the shortage of technically skilled people required to operate and support systems already deployed, but also on educating young individuals who can design secure systems, as well as create and deploy sophisticated tools needed to prevent malicious acts.
Collegiate Cyber Defense Challenge (CCDC)
The Collegiate Cyber Defense Challenge (CCDC) is a capture the flag-style tournament. The nation is divided into nine regions with an additional at-large region, where teams of eight students compete against each other to defend their networks and associated services and the winners of each region advance to the National CCDC. In 2011, over 1,300 students from 109 colleges and universities participated in CCDC events. CCDC was recognized for its efforts to promote cybersecurity curriculum in institutions of higher learning by the 111th Congress and is mentioned as a model program in the White House’s 2009 Cyberspace Policy Review. The CCDC program was also honored with the Visa Leadership in Security Award.
US Cyber Challenge (USCC)
The U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) seeks to create a pipeline through which talented youth will be discovered, guided and enabled to progress towards careers as technical cybersecurity experts. The goal is to deploy and test multiple talent competitions and talent development initiatives to enable high school and college students to develop and demonstrate their cyber skills. USCC organizes multiple events for high school students throughout the year including Cyber Foundations workshops as well as summer camps. Each camp features four days of intense instruction, culminating in a capture the flag-style competition. In Spring 2011, registration for USCC Cyber Foundations included 26 states and almost 1,000 students. Fall 2011 registration closed on October 14th, and student registration numbers have almost doubled from the previous year. In the summer and fall of 2011, USCC conducted six cyber camps in Maryland, California, Delaware, Virginia and Missouri with 210 students in participation.
One of the exciting aspects of the competitions for both students as well as DHS is the ability to introduce new tools or methodology into the competitions. The students get an opportunity to experiment and investigate novel tools coming out of government cybersecurity R&D programs, while the government development teams have an opportunity to obtain a rich data set that includes a high density of a variety of attacks with different real-time defense approaches. Competitions allow for the development of a new cybersecurity workforce that is already familiar with not only current technology for cyber defense, but also the novel and emerging technologies that they can apply from their first day on the job.