Fighting against hackers through simulations and cracking codes, using skills learned through puzzles and logic problem-solving — For teens, learning about cybersecurity can be a pathway from fun middle and high school education to successful career choice.
Information security – i.e. cybersecurity – is one of the fastest-growing, most in-demand skills in the information technology (IT) field. According to a recent study by Burning-glass.com, the number of cybersecurity job postings has grown 94% in the last six years. For frame of reference, the number of general IT jobs has grown by about 30% in the same amount of time. Furthermore, cybersecurity jobs pay roughly 16% more than the average for all IT jobs. In other words, young men who are interested in pursuing a career in the IT field would do well with a cybersecurity skillset.
It is for exactly this reason that Missouri Military Academy is adding a cybersecurity program to its academic offerings. Beginning the 2020-21 academic year, cadets interested in learning about cybersecurity will have the opportunity to join MMA’s CyberTeam.
About MMA’s CyberTeam
Cybersecurity encompasses all of the technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers and data from attack or unauthorized access. MMA’s CyberTeam will receive cybersecurity training, such as how to spot vulnerabilities, fend off attacks and immediately respond to cyber emergencies; compete in professional competitions, such as the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), National Cyber League and CyberPatriot state and national competitions; and buff their resumes through cybersecurity projects.
What is National Cyber League and CyberPatriot?
National Cyber League
The National Cyber League (NCL) enables students to prepare and test themselves against practical cybersecurity challenges that they will likely face in the workforce, such as identifying hackers from forensic data, penetration testing, auditing vulnerable websites, recovering from ransomware attacks and more.
Following the end of the NCL season, participants will receive a Certificate of Participation and a Scouting Report, which contains a breakdown of their skillsets and is a great resource to provide employers when applying for jobs or internships.
CyberPatriot is an international program of training and competition organized and operated by the Air Force Association. It is supported and financially underwritten by defense contractors, such as Northrop-Grumman, a global aerospace and defense technology company. CyberPatriot is extremely well organized, highly competitive and provides scholarships and tangible professional benefits to those who compete successfully.
At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, which puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. Through a series of online competition rounds, teams are given a set of virtual operating systems and are tasked with finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities while maintaining critical services. The top teams in the nation earn all-expenses-paid trips to Maryland for the national finals competition, where they earn national recognition and scholarship money.
What will cadets learn on the CyberTeam?
In sum, cadets will first learn how to navigate operating systems, then how to identify threats, and finally how to fix identified cyber issues.
- Step 1: Cadets will begin by learning about windows operating systems and Linux operating systems. With both operating systems, cadets will learn how to create files; create, change or move directories; search contents of directories and files; and find irregularities in any space on a server.
- Step 2: Cadets will learn about packet tracing. Packet tracing identifies the origin and composition of data as it comes into a network so it can be evaluated as friendly or unfriendly.
- Step 3: With this newfound knowledge, cadets will learn how to take action. They will learn how to protect a server or network, and how to respond to attacks and fix vulnerabilities.
How will cadets learn all this?
Cadets will learn through a combination of CyberRange exercises, classroom training, and individual study.
CyberRange, short for USCyberRange, is a cloud-hosted platform operated by Virginia Tech that provides students and educators with virtual environments to perform hands-on cybersecurity exercises. Using this platform, cadets will gain direct experience penetrating and defending systems using real tools, attacks and scenarios.
In a classroom setting, cadets will learn from MMA’s CyberTeam founder, Keith Morgan. Morgan also serves as a computer science and technology instructor at MMA.
Are there any requirements to join MMA’s CyberTeam?
No – there are no prerequisites to joining MMA’s CyberTeam, and all grades are welcome to participate. Cadets are encouraged – but not required – to take a computer science course before joining, as cybersecurity requires a broad knowledge base of how computers and internet technologies work together.
What should parents and cadets know about joining the CyberTeam?
Learning cybersecurity requires self-discipline and commitment. It may be difficult at times, but overall it is one of the greatest investments cadets can make towards an IT career.
Cadets who join the CyberTeam must make an ethical commitment to uphold the highest professional standards. MMA will reinforce this commitment with every lesson.
For more information about the CyberTeam, or with interest to support the CyberTeam’s growth through expertise or funding, please contact Business Department Chair & Computer Science Instructor Keith Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.