FC2 & USF Pre-College Train the Next Generation of Cyber Defense Professionals
TAMPA, Fla.—August 9, 2016—High school students learned the latest techniques to fight cybercrime during a new summer program offered by the Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC2) as part of the USF Pre-College program.
Cyber Defense Boot Camp, which ran July 25-July 29, touched on a broad range of cybersecurity issues, including cryptography, social engineering scams, phishing scams and cloning websites. A total of 14 students were part of the inaugural program, which was taught by students in USF’s Whitehatters Computer Security Club under the direction of Dr. Simon Ou, associate professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of South Florida.
“I didn’t really think defense would involve so much attack,” said Matthew Niles, a local student who attended the program.
Students got a hands-on look at the real-world scenarios and issues they’ll face as cybersecurity professionals, including how companies safeguard their sensitive data by employing teams to try to steal it.
Dr. Ou said the ultimate goal of this program is to further encourage students to enter this fast-growing field. “You are our next generation of cyber fighters,” he explained.
According to a recent Intel report, trained cybersecurity professionals are in short supply across the United States. In 2015, over 200,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled.
And with such a strong need for cybersecurity professionals, these jobs offer high salaries that exceed other careers in technology. A recent blog from the jobs website Indeed reported that the average security specialist salary in many major U.S. cities is over $100,000.
Ryan Nelson, who was interested in computer science in general but not yet decided on his exact career path, explained that he found the program particularly rewarding because he was able to “get some real-world experience in the field” while working with the USF Whitehatters.
Although the weeklong boot camp covered many of the nefarious ways hackers access and steal private data, ethics remained a major focus throughout. Initial training focused on the moral obligation to use the tools taught in the course for the right purposes. Students signed ethics statements before official instruction even began.
Kris Willis, manager of cybersecurity research for FC2 and president of the USF Whitehatters, said the program gave these future cybersecurity professionals the baseline knowledge and direction needed to continue their education independently.
All participants received access to a shared folder with all their work and the resources they need to further their cybersecurity education. In addition, the Whitehatters will reach out to each participant to give them access to a hosted environment where a competition will be held to hone the skills they learned during the boot camp.
This initial program is part of overall efforts by FC2 to build a stronger cybersecurity workforce in Florida, said FC2 Senior Director Jan Resch. “Ultimately, our goal is to see programs like this launched across the state to build interest in the field of cybersecurity and increase the pipeline for talent in Florida,” she said.