As we close out National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I want to touch on a topic that is important to me personally and professionally. I’ve mentioned it several times on this blog and speak about it often. And while we’ve been talking about how we can all be more #cyberaware, we also need to look at our next generation of security professionals.
We need smart, creative technical women and men who have a very deep understanding of the science of computing—forward-thinkers who know the impact of things like autonomous systems such as cars and drones and computational biology.
So, what is DHS doing to move the needle to educate a new cadre of cybersecurity professionals? We put our funds to good use as sponsors to several programs.
For starters, there’s the U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC), which provides a way for talented youth to be discovered, guided and enabled to have a career as a technical cybersecurity expert. USCC challenges high school and college students to develop and demonstrate their cyber skills through multiple talent competitions and talent-development initiatives.
DHS also offers the Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative. This program is designed to give current students exposure to cyber leaders, laboratories, field experience and day-to-day cybersecurity operations. Interns are recruited from the nation's top undergraduate and graduate programs to put their academic achievements and intellect to use addressing cybersecurity needs and gaps.
As a bonus, interns have the opportunity to be selected into the bachelor's- or master's-based Cyber Fellows Program within the DHS Secretary's Honors Program after graduation. Just last week we held a Cybersecurity Volunteer Initiative Recognition Event in Washington, D.C. to ensure this program continues to provide valuable opportunities in the coming years.
Last but not least is the Collegiate Cyber Defense Challenge (CCDC). This capture tournament, in the vein of capture the flag, divides nine regions, across the nation, into teams of eight students. The students compete against each other to defend their networks and associated services, with each winner advancing to the National CCDC. Just last year, more than 200 colleges and universities participated in CCDC events and what’s great about it, is it allows the students and DHS S&T to introduce new tools or methodology into the competition.
These competitions allow us to develop the workforce of tomorrow by focusing on the cybersecurity problems of today.
These programs are essential to nurturing the future workforce. In a world where most K-12 students don’t get the chance to even take a computer science class, it’s our job to introduce them to this vital area of education and national security.