(TNS) -- APTOS -- As U.S. war zones continue to transition from battlefields to cyberspace, military branches have been forced to address a serious problem — the American education system is not producing near enough computer programmers capable of defending the country from cyberattacks.
When it became clear the next Chuck Yeager would probably be seated in front of a computer terminal rather than an flight instrument panel, the Air Force Association established CyberPatriot, a national Youth Cyber Education Program designed to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other STEM disciplines.
From July 17-21, Cabrillo College will host the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot Summer Camp, or CyberCamp, a free, hands-on primer of cybersecurity principles for high school-age students.
CyberCamp facilitator Richard Grotegut launched a local pilot program at Las Positas College in Livermore last summer. This year, he has established CyberCamps in 12 colleges in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
“There’s a big need for cybersecurity professionals that we cannot fill — not just here in the Silicon Valley, but nationwide,” said Grotegut. “It’s not something you can just learn in school. It takes a lot of practice. We want the kids to get started early.”
CyberCampers do not need any special skills, according to Grotegut. The basic knowledge of computer hardware such as the mouse, monitor and start button are helpful, but not necessary.
During the weeklong program, students will learn basic computer defenses and vulnerabilities, as well as techniques such as spotting suspicious software and creating strong passwords, Grotegut said.
Participants are also prepped for the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, also known as CyberPatriot, where middle school and high school students from across the country act as newly hired information technology professionals managing the network of a small company.
The competition pits teams against one another in a race to examine a computer system and find its vulnerabilities. Are there unauthorized users getting into the network? Weak passwords? Firewall gaps? For every problem they fix, they’ll get points. But they also lose points for mistakes.
“The Cyber Defense Competitions are a year round activity. They can get involved at their schools like they would an athletic activity. The team meets and competes regularly,” said Grotegut.
Despite the Silicon Valley’s reputation as a tech Mecca, the San Francisco Bay Area has never fielded a team in the competition — an oversight that Grotegut said he would like to correct.
“This is a very popular program in Southern California. Last year’s winning team was from North Hollywood,” Grotegut said.
Ultimately, the CyberCamps are the first step toward building a homegrown supply of cybersecurity talent.
“We’ve seen campers matriculate to colleges, graduate from programs like the one at Cabrillo College and enter the workforce, said Grotegut.
The Air Force Association is a nonprofit, independent, professional military and aerospace education association that calls itself “the voice of aerospace power and the Air Force family.” The CyberCamp curriculum was first piloted during the summer of 2014. Today there are more than 100 camps across the nation.
To register for the Cabrillo College CyberCamp, visit bit.ly/CyberCamp2017Cabrillo.
CYBERPATRIOT SUMMER CAMP
What: AFA CyberPatriot Summer Camp.
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 17–21.
Where: Cabrillo College Aptos Campus, 6500 Soquel Drive, 800 Building, Aptos.
Who: Students who will enter ninth grade to 12th grade in fall of 2017.
Cost: Free; lunch provided.
Required: No special skills; basic knowledge of computer hardware (mouse, monitor, start button) helpful, but not necessary.
©2017 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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