Teaching Cyber Security to the Next Generation

From airline security to nuclear plants, our world is made up of systems. Threats to these systems from hackers have raised concerns about privacy, personal information protection, and even national security. So who will save us? Our kids.

It’s no surprise that kids these days know more about computers than their parents, generally speaking.  Private enterprises and the US Government are investing in programs, competitions, and internships all geared toward helping kids harness their hacking powers for good, not evil.  It’s a new generation of “white hat” hackers.

Cyber security is a priority for us here at Adaptive Communications – from vulnerability assessments to penetration testing to firewall implementation. In addition to providing those solutions to our clients, we also share the importance of cyber security with the community. Our CTO, Rich Dube, serves as a mentor for junior members of the Civil Air Patrol in a national high school cyber defense competition called CyberPatriot.

Training in Adaptive’s state-of-the-art engineering lab and working closely with Rich, the team focused on counteracting cyber security threats, an ever-growing problem in the US. At the CyberPatriot Competition in 2012, the team placed 53rd out of nearly 1,000 teams.  In 2013, the team finished in first place in the state competition.

“The biggest challenge was trying to condense vast amounts of information in a short period of time. These kids have grown up around computers, but they don’t really know a great deal about how computers operate, the core of these systems,” says Rich.

“White-Hat” hacking programs are growing in popularity across the nation. DefCon Kids is a camp that grew out of the largest annual hackers’ networking conference, Def Con, which originated in 1993. From skills labs to field trips, camp attendees are encouraged to question authority to truly understand how the technologies and systems that surround them work.

“These guys learn something new every time they come,” says Chris Hoff, the camp’s co-founder. “Every day they are here, they learn about electronics, they learn about privacy, how law enforcement works. They learn about social engineering.”

So what’s the outlook for these hacker heroes?

There is a growing demand for candidates with these skill sets across several industries. Here at Adaptive, we use these skills when performing Penetration Tests, as we attempt to circumvent the company’s security systems to determine where the vulnerabilities are and how to fix them. The more we can understand about the emerging threats across our landscape, the more we can do to combat them and teach future generations to do so as well.

Continued sponsorship of the CyberPatriots and other similar programs remains a priority for us at Adaptive. Rich believes, “raising awareness of cyber defense in of itself may decrease the existence of vulnerabilities in the first place from bad coding practices.”