As the number of people accessing the Internet for convenience increases, so too do the number of people looking to take advantage of others. From individuals to major corporations such as Sony and Home Depot, no one is entirely safe from cyber crime.
On June 21, Georgia Regents University launched a pilot program called the Cyber Science Summer Academy. Opened to current high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, the CSSA was developed as a means of teaching younger students the benefits and dangers of cyber defense in a secure learning environment.
But with cybersecurity being one of the fastest growing career fields in the United States, the CSSA was also developed with another purpose in mind: to help train a new generation of defenders.
Joanne Sexton, Director for GRU Cyber Security Educational Initiatives and Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Sciences in the Hull College of Business, said that teaching high school students is the only way to stay one step ahead of our enemies.
“The need for cybersecurity specialists is too great to rely solely on college students or military personnel transitioning into the civilian workforce,” Sexton said. “We have to start going into high schools, possibly even middle schools, to start teaching people how important the need for cybersecurity is.”
Some students, however, already understand the importance.
Dennis Perea, a junior at Aiken High School, said the CSSA interested him because the world is becoming a more dangerous place.
“Cyber science is obviously something that’s been in the news a lot,” Perea said. “Hackings, infiltrations – they’re everywhere.”
Perea said programs like the CSSA help to encourage students to develop skills he considers necessary for the future.
Kourtney King, a rising junior at AR Johnson, said she took an interest in the CSSA for more personal reasons.
“I’m the most tech-oriented person in my family,” King said. “I’ve always surfed the Web, so hearing about all the little tragedies, the hackings, got me interested in cyber defense.”
Both students said they could see themselves working in the field of cybersecurity, if given the opportunity.
“This program was definitely a positive experience for me,” said King. “Being in this program really helped to expose me to the problems in cybersecurity. If there’s any way I could be part of the solution, I will.”
The Cyber Science Summer Academy continues through Thursday, June 25. The second session begins on June 28.