Cynthia Argentine, author of “STEAM jobs in Cyber Security” recently spoke to students in grades 4-6 at Zionsville Public Library’s Cybersecurity 101 class, offering education on personal security and options available in career choice.
“It’s important because there’s a huge demand for expertise in this area,” Argentine said. “One of the points I make is computer experience in education, but many traditional classes are helping prepare you. In general, it’s about problem solving, so composing music, designing art … those skills are also valuable.”
The U. S. Department of Commerce has stated there are currently 350,000 cybersecurity jobs going unfulfilled in 2020 – a large number, but perhaps underestimated compared to Cybersecurity Ventures’ estimate of 3.5 million unfilled positions expected in 2021.
Regardless of the estimates and statistics, one thing is for sure – the need for cyber security experts isn’t going anywhere and as more colleges today are offering courses on the subject, the effort to educate young people on opportunities and protecting themselves is also rising.
Argentine spent a few moments filling students in on the basics and then played three games, with the goal of giving the young people a clear picture of what’s happening in the cyber world.
“We played a Jeopardy game with topics like hack attacks, cybercrime, school and jobs, and other things related to the field,” Argentine said. “There was a wide range of knowledge. Some already had a decent idea and for others, the information was brand new.”
The children also played a simulation game, developed by Argentine, learning how data travels the internet. The third game involved decoding messages.
“I think they had different levels of grasping the information. They’ve heard terms like ‘virus’ and ‘worm’ in society, but it’s difficult to see how it applies directly to their life or their family,” Argentine said. “I make it a point to explain how accounts are compromised and we go over some major data breaches like Yahoo, Facebook and Fortnite.”
Among the tips Argentine shared with students were:
• Do not “friend” a person you don’t know in person;
• Be careful what you share; even when you think you’ve deleted it, it most likely exists somewhere;
• Turn off location tracking; there’s usually no need to share your location;
• Keep up on the anti-virus on all of your devices;
• Don’t check email or other private information on a public computer; and
• Create strong passwords; phrases are often best, and hackers know the generic “123456” and other well-known passwords.
With cybersecurity affecting almost every area of business – banks, hospitals, schools and the military – the desire to have experts in place to thwart those attacks can be the difference of millions of dollars and millions of individual lives effected.
Argentine also discussed personal protection, something teens and adults struggle with day to day, when it comes to information and technology.
Lebanon High School is currently planning additional computer education courses for the fall, including classes on cyber security.
Chad Martin, director of operations and resources at Lebanon School Corporation (LSC), said while the school has a filtering company in place to block certain searches such as hate speech or pornography, no tool is going to be a 100 percent solution.
As society becomes more reliant on technology and most (children included) have a cell phone, teaching students about the pitfalls becomes that much more important.
“The only real protection we have is education,” Martin said. “We can put in as much hardware as we can, but the common thread is educating students so they can protect themselves.”
LCSC uses Common Sense Media, a program providing three lessons per year to students in grades K-12 and teaching age-appropriate information about the Internet today.
“We want them to stay up to speed and make sure they understand some of the pitfalls,” Martin said. “The kindergarteners, for example, have a song about dangers on the internet – it’s all aimed toward their grade level but being safe online is being taught over and over again in every school at every level.”
In 2014, Congress passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act in order to strengthen research and education among citizens.
In response, the National Security Agency (NSA), sponsors a summer cybersecurity camp for children.
“We realized we needed to teach the basic principles of cybersecurity earlier and earlier,” said Judith Emmel, NSA director of state and local affairs.
The program, GenCyber was developed and offered in more than 100 camps across the country. In 2019, five cities in Indiana participated. Summer camps will be announced shortly for 2020 at GenCyber Camp Locator.