Encouraging Aspiring Future Cyber Defenders

Encouraging Aspiring Future Cyber Defenders

IMG_1102_largeThe process of building, nurturing, encouraging, developing, inspiring, and training future cybersecurity professionals is an ongoing lifecycle for us at Net Force. For the second straight year, our team has been working with Cal-Poly Pomona, Los Angeles Unified School District and CyberPatriot to identify and encourage new and rising talent in the industry.

This past weekend especially was a landmark occasion for those of us in Los Angeles. Over 350 middle and high school students from across Southern California gathered together for the first annual “Cyber Day Los Angeles”. Students as young as sixth grade were given Windows images to debug and remediate security issues while the advanced and battle-tested students also engaged in a Linux Capture-The-Flag (CTF) Competition.

These students represent our future team members and colleagues. It is such a huge priority for those of us at Net Force to have more friends than enemies. We want to see these students become our allies rather than those who go to the dark side. It makes our lives significantly easier.

Training future talent is a key component to defending our systems. As I wrote before, defense is not easy. Competitions like CyberPatriot and events like Cyber Day Los Angeles ensures that we have the brightest minds working on the ongoing battle against cybercrime. Cyber Threats continue to be the biggest threat to organizations alike with increased sophistication. Adversaries are becoming more adept in this field to a point where adversaries are making a profession of being evil. Knowing that these young minds are coming down the pipe brings some comfort.

At the end of the day, I find it inspiring and encouraging to see so many students, from both middle and high schools across the Southern California, gather and share a passion for cyber security.

Teaching CyberSecurity in Higher Academia

Teaching CyberSecurity in Higher Academia

Teaching Cyber Security in Higher Academia has always been a subject that’s struck a chord with both academia and industry. There is always this balance that both sides seek to achieve.

On one hand, there are risks when teaching such a subject, including, having the proverbial “Dog biting the hand that feeds it.” Reading this thread on Reddit made my stomach churn as I see students try to advance their careers, knowledge and understanding of cyber security.

I won’t go down this rabbit hole too much on pointing the negatives out, but I would like to point out the obvious: The students are meeting in an unofficial capacity.

Whether it is sanctioned or unsanctioned by Higher Academia, the students have formed a community to share and learn. The very fact these students want to take it to the next level with the blessing of the administration indicates the willingness by students to do this the right way and ensure this community stays out of trouble.

It is also a wonderful opportunity for the administration to teach and help students learn the right ethics, morals, and understanding the consequences of ‘going to the dark side’. These students will be this academic institution’s first line of cyber defense in future years as they may notice suspicious and unusual behavior of computers they use on campus. They may even join the ranks as staff members of a higher academia institution, including the one they currently attend.

This is a relationship I encourage any student and higher academia to grow, nurture and cultivate. The benefits will always outweigh the concerns, and I ask that higher academia to avoid simply saying no and let that be the end of the conversation and dialogue.

Rather, identify the concerns (and yes they are legitimate concerns) and find ways to teach and educate these young minds that “With great power comes great responsibility.