CyberPatriot is a national cyber security education program conceived by the Air Force Association, which has a High School Cyber Defense competition at its core. Teams of two to six high school students learn cyber security ethics and skills from coaches and industry mentors, and then demonstrate their skills and problem solving expertise in a series of online competitions culminating in an in-person National Finals competition. It has grown from an eight team competition in 2009 to 2,175 registered teams last year. The winners receive scholarships, and all competitors have a head start in gaining industry internships as high school students.
Though CyberPatriot VII recently concluded, now is the best time for industry mentors, teachers, students and their parents to get ready to compete in CyberPatriot VIII. There are still four exhibition or learning rounds about securing systems and networks to be held throughout the summer months to help students prepare for the competition next fall. It is a great opportunity to learn about the competition, drum up interest, and hone skills for the competition rounds. Here is the schedule:
- Exhibition Round 2: May 12-22, 2015
- Exhibition Round 3: June 9-19, 2015
- Exhibition Round 4: July 14-24, 2015
- Exhibition Round 5: August 11-21, 2015
I urge teachers and my industry peers to get involved by checking out the team and volunteer registration page. It has been, and will continue to be, a great experience for me and many others.
What do students learn?
CyberPatriot is focused solely on defensive strategies, concepts, and mechanisms. Students learn how to fix vulnerabilities in Windows workstation and server systems and Linux systems, and to secure networks and applications or services such as Samba, SSH, and webservers. Students must uncover and eliminate backdoors into the computer systems, eradicate malware, and ensure the systems are configured securely (e.g., only authorized users can access them, prohibited files and services are removed, computer hygiene is maintained, etc.). And they have to do this in limited time windows; this past year teams had six hours to securely configure 2-3 computer systems and complete networking challenges. As the rounds progressed the vulnerabilities were more advanced and harder to find. Only the best and most prepared teams advanced from the beginning rounds to the Regional Round, and then to the National Championships.
Why is this important?
There is a shortage of cyber security professionals with the knowledge and skills to protect our national and corporate systems. We need to recruit as many students as we can to become cyber security professionals. New breaches of systems and the data they hold are in the news almost daily, and a number of them have involved exploiting the exact items CyberPatriot competitors learn how to fix. We need the next generation of cyber-defenders to be the best and the brightest cyber security technicians they can be.
What can you do?
To get the most out of the CyberPatriot program, now is the time to form a team. Registering now will get a team access to the exhibition rounds where they can learn without the pressure of competition. Teachers, cyber security professionals, students, and their parents can visit the CyberPatriot website to find out more about becoming a coach, a mentor, or a competitor. In addition, you don’t have to be a technical expert to volunteer; mentors are the only volunteers expected to have cyber security technical expertise. Teams can also use Team Assistants who provide non-technical support and encouragement to teams, such as competition set-up, coordination, and administration.
This will be my third year as a CyberPatriot industry mentor, and I can attest that it is a truly rewarding experience. I hope you will consider joining us for CyberPatriot VIII!
The Empower and Protect Blog brings you cybersecurity and information technology insights from top industry experts at Telos.