Preventing hackers from accessing personal data on an electronic device is a team sport in which defense is the name of the game, participants learned at this week’s Teen Cybersecurity Camp in Colorado Springs.
“We’re getting more and more connected with billions of devices, and we need to stay a step ahead,” said Caty Rozema.
The AT&T executive works with clients including Air Force Space Command, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command and is director of the AT&T and Air Force Association’s annual summer camp.
Colorado Springs is one of five cities in the nation to offer the free week-long session for students entering eighth through 11th grades.
It takes a coordinated effort, Rozema said, to figure out what the bad guys are up to and thwart their attempts to infiltrate military, corporate and personal accounts using bots, zombies and possibly the new and popular Russian-developed Facebook application that ages faces.
“That’s why these young men and women learning (how to) prevent vulnerability is so critical,” she said. “Looking at this next generation’s work is encouraging because it tells me we’re going to be in good hands.”
Many people mistakenly think cybersecurity is just about scrutinizing computer codes. It’s that and so much more, Rozema said Friday, as 19 campers used their new knowledge to test their skills in a hack-a-thon competition.
Working in groups of three, students were up against the clock to pinpoint system weaknesses and flaws. The winning team earned bragging rights.
“There’s an incredible array of skills and activation” involved, Rozema said, to prevent what happened to Target, for example. Hackers in 2013 stole login credentials from a company that provides HVAC services to the retailer and obtained private data of 41 million customers.
Throughout the week, students were taught the basics of securing systems and finding vulnerabilities, such as checking for suspicious emails, setting up firewalls, creating strong passwords, identifying unsecured accesses, spotting malware and other techniques.
They also heard speakers talk about military and banking applications in the growing field of cybersecurity. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimated one year ago that about 350,000 cybersecurity jobs were unfilled nationwide.
The field is important for students to consider as a career, said 15-year-old Anthony Figueroa, who attends Vista Ridge High School in School District 49 and intends to make it his profession.
“With all the new technology being introduced, we need more security,” he said. ”There’s many ways hackers are trying to get into people’s personal information.”
Students, who attend a variety of public and private schools across the Pikes Peak region, said the educational camp was worth the time.
“It’s been a good experience,” Anthony said. “I’ve learned a lot. It also was a lot of fun.”
Chris Moody, a 15-year-old who attends Cheyenne Mountain High School in Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, followed the advice of her dad, who’s in the Air Force, as she prepares to follow in his military footsteps.
“He said this is the future and would be helpful in my career,” she said.
Dad’s likely right on that one.
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