Cyber Boot Camp for Tomorrow’s Cyber Defenders

On June 16, select students from three different San Diego high schools convergeed on the ESET building in Little Italy for a week of intensive education in the art of defending computer systems. They call it Cyber Boot Camp, and two dozen students will experience five days of hands-on instruction, plus lectures from leading cyber security experts from San Diego companies as well as local and national law enforcement.

Right now, there is a critical shortage of people with the skills and training required to defend computer systems against the growing ranks of criminals who range from well organized gangs of cyber criminals to terrorists, plus a complex mix of state and nonstate players. Addressing that shortage, through improvements in education and career guidance, is vital to the future health of our digital economy.

The players
As one of the world’s leading centers for cyber security, San Diego has pioneered exciting new ways to engage young people in the vital effort to protect the data and systems upon which so much of modern life depends. In March, the cyber competition known as the San Diego Mayor’s Cyber Cup marked its fifth year, with more than 50 teams competing, with eight students on each team. In previous years, ESET and the nonprofit Securing Our eCity Foundation (SOeC) have invited the first place team to Cyber Boot Camp, but this year was different: The top three teams were invited.

Participating in this year’s boot camp are cup winners Canyon Crest Academy, second place Westview High School — the school that won last year — and third place Mira Mesa High School.

The prospect of guiding as many as 24 students, each with their own workstation, through the complexities of today’s cyber attack-and defend scenarios was at first quite daunting, said ESET Security Researcher Cameron Camp, lead instructor and developer of the boot camp’s curriculum. However, the event’s organizer, SOeC, was able to line up an impressive roster of volunteers to assist. Said Camp, “With the support we’re getting from SOeC volunteers and the local community, including UCSD, as well as some great corporate sponsors, I think this will be a great experience for the students.”

Career path
According to Cyber Boot Camp alumni Vineel Adusumilli, “The Cyber Boot Camp was a terrific learning experience, combining lab work using the latest tools with insights from experienced security professionals.” Adusumilli, a graduate of Westview High, was the leading point scorer in last year’s Cyber Boot Camp and is now a sophomore at MIT.

While there are no grades for boot camp, many students who have participated in the event said they found it helped them to evaluate cyber security as a possible career path, exposing them to many different aspects of the high-demand profession. With guest speakers from both the industry and government, students get a full picture of the cyber disciplines, from secure computer coding to security architecture and from defending systems to catching and prosecuting the criminals.

The fact that cyber crime is on the rise will come as no surprise if you recently received a notice from a store or bank saying it’s time to change your password or get a new credit card. The resulting surge in demand for skilled cyber security professionals is reflected in projected 2013/14 employment growth in San Diego County of 13 percent for cyber security firms, more than six times the overall projected employment growth for the county. Cyber Boot Camp is one more reason that San Diego is achieving global recognition as a cyber center of excellence.

About Securing Our eCity Foundation
Securing Our eCity Foundation (SOeC) is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization focused on cybersecurity awareness and education. Our mission is to enable every San Diegan to live, work and play safely in the cyber world.

The Foundation, formed in late 2011, is built on an initiative started in mid-2008 by ESET North America, an internet security company. Supported through generous donations from organizations like ESET North America and San Diego Gas & Electric, SOeC helps facilitate a safer cyber experience for digital citizens in the greater San Diego area.
For more information, visit www.securingourecity.org or call + 1.619.630.2444

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Modified: June 17, 2014