Cybersecurity for K-12 Students – It can be difficult to know where to begin if you are a young person interested in pursuing a career in technology. While some schools may have a technology curriculum, cybersecurity is usually not one of them.
The earlier you start learning the ropes in any career, the better off you will be in the long run. This tutorial is intended for students who are interested in learning more about cybersecurity. We’ll also go over some parental recommendations for getting their kids interested in cybersecurity and teaching them how to stay secure when browsing the web.
What is the Field of Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the science of securing and protecting digital assets and data. The cybersecurity profession comprises a wide range of occupations that demand a diverse set of abilities. Let’s take a look at some of the cybersecurity careers that are now accessible.
Security analysts are in charge of overseeing security procedures and ensuring that best practises are performed. Because security processes differ from one firm to the next, the security analyst must adapt to each new position. A security analyst is a generalist who wears several hats when it comes to cybersecurity. Entry-level to senior-level security analyst positions are available.
Penetration Tester/Ethical Hacker
When we think about hackers, we usually think of thieves attempting to break into networks without permission. Not all hackers, though, are criminals. Ethical hackers, also known as penetration testers, are cybersecurity experts who utilise their hacking talents to lawfully breach into systems and uncover network flaws. A penetration test is the name for this type of exam. Ethical hackers and penetration testers need to be well-versed in a variety of hacking and cybersecurity topics.
Malware researchers try to figure out what a piece of malware can accomplish and how it operates. Malware analysts employ a technique known as reverse engineering to figure out how malware works. The act of dissecting malware in a safe and isolated environment is known as reverse engineering. Companies can better protect against them if they understand the program’s goals.
Digital/Computer Forensics Investigator
After a data, network, or security breach, digital and computer forensics experts work with company executives or law enforcement to construct a picture of how a computer or computer system was compromised. They’re in charge of gathering, storing, and evaluating digital evidence. To ensure that evidence is acceptable in a court of law, digital and computer forensics investigators must follow a chain of custody.
Cryptographers develop (and decrypt) encrypted software and services using algorithms and computer code. Anyone interested in working in cryptography should have a thorough understanding of mathematics and a good mathematical background. Cryptographers are needed in the corporate sector as well as federal agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
A company’s cybersecurity architecture, policy/planning, and implementation are developed and overseen by a chief information security officer (CISO). A CISO role typically requires a candidate to have at least 7-10 years of hands-on cybersecurity expertise. The CISO position is not one to aim for as an entry-level post, but rather as a long-term goal.
Skills Needed for a Career in Cybersecurity
Students must have a thorough understanding of various technology skills in order to be successful in the cybersecurity sector. To prepare for a job in cybersecurity, students should start by mastering the concepts provided in this section.
A career in cybersecurity necessitates a solid understanding of computer hardware and software principles. How can you protect systems if you don’t completely comprehend how they operate? Students should start by studying about computer components such as the motherboard, RAM, CPU, graphics card, and so on. Furthermore, pupils must comprehend how various forms of software operate on a computer.
Computer Operating Systems (Windows, Linux, macOS)
The field of cybersecurity necessitates a thorough understanding of a variety of operating systems. Malware does not target macOS systems, contrary to popular perception. Cyber-attacks can affect any operating system, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. Many businesses will use a combination of these operating systems to run their operations.
Many cybersecurity technologies are built on Linux. Students should learn about Kali Linux and ParrotOS, two Linux-based cybersecurity operating systems.
Using these operating systems is the greatest method to learn about them. It’s crucial to know how to troubleshoot problems with each operating system. The command line is used for a lot of cybersecurity jobs. For each operating system, students should learn about the numerous commands and command-line tools accessible.
Individuals find Linux-based operating systems to be the most difficult to learn. For students interested in cybersecurity, the book Linux Basics for Hackers is an excellent resource and tool.
Another important skill for anyone interested in a career in technology is networking. The technique of linking one or more computers is known as computer networking. Understanding how networks and systems connect and transmit data will help you defend them.
Engineers and analysts are needed in many cybersecurity professions to examine data as it passes across a network. This type of study is difficult to perform without a thorough understanding of networking models, such as the TCP/IP model.
While there are many cybersecurity jobs that do not require programming or coding experience, knowing the fundamentals of coding or being able to code in languages like Python will provide you a significant advantage in your career. Cybersecurity analysts are less likely to need coding skills, although ethical hacking and malware analysis will almost certainly want some coding experience.
Resources for Learning more about Cybersecurity
There are an increasing number of online tools available to help teach students in grades K-12 about cybersecurity. These materials can assist students in preparing for secondary school, internships, or even an entry-level cybersecurity career. Let’s have a look at a few of the most popular resources on the market right now.
US Cyber Patriot
CyberPatriot is a cybersecurity education initiative developed by the Air Force Association (AFA) to encourage K-12 students to seek careers in cybersecurity or other STEM fields. Cyber camps and the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, the nation’s largest cyber defence competition, are part of the US CyberPatriot programme. The competition puts high school and middle school students in charge of safeguarding virtual networks, allowing them to participate.
This type of hands-on training is invaluable, as it helps students to get a true sense of what it’s like to work in the field of cybersecurity.
National Cyber League
CyberPatriot is akin to the National Cyber League. The National Cyber League is a competition-based platform that allows kids to learn about cybersecurity and apply what they’ve learned. These competitions allow students to learn how to protect organisations against cyber-risks and keep them secure by simulating real-life cyber threats in a safe setting.
The Institute for Security and Open Methodologies developed Hacker Highschool (ISECOM). Hacker Highschool is a self-directed self-study programme. The Hacker Highschool curriculum is a developing collection of cybersecurity lessons aimed specifically at teenagers aged 12 to 20. Attack Analysis and Defensive Hacking are among the subjects covered in the curriculum.
Hacker Highschool is an amazing venue for students to learn about the cybersecurity sector in conjunction with labs and other supporting materials.
Codecademy is a free interactive platform for learning how to code, rather than a site dedicated to cybersecurity. Coding may be a requirement depending on the cybersecurity speciality you are interested in. Learning to code, regardless of speciality, will offer you a leg up on the competition.
Courses in computer science, data science, PHP, Python, Ruby, and other topics are available through Codecademy.
Cybrary is a free online platform that teaches people how to be more secure online. Unlike some of the other programmes discussed here, Cybrary isn’t specifically created for middle and high school students. It is, however, a fantastic resource for learning the skills required for a job in cybersecurity. While all of the courses on Cybrary are free to view, students can upgrade to a Pro subscription to gain access to career pathways for specific occupations.
Cybrary’s courses come in a variety of difficulty levels. Cybrary, for example, offers both beginner-level and advanced-level courses, such as Introduction to IT and Cybersecurity and Offensive Penetration Testing.
Cybersecurity summer camps
Cybersecurity is an important topic. Summer camps are a wonderful way to learn about the field of cybersecurity. Attendees will also get the opportunity to meet new people who share their interests.
GenCyber is an example of a company that runs cybersecurity summer camps across the United States. All GenCyber camps are free to attend for both students and teachers. The National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation collaborate to give funding.
Many institutions also offer cybersecurity summer camps, so look into it at your local colleges.
Capture the flag
CTFs, or capture the flags competitions, are ethical hacking competitions. Capture the flag competitions come in a variety of flavours, but the most popular one requires students to attack their opponents’ systems while defending their own. Capture the flag activities are a fantastic way to teach students for real-world cybersecurity roles.
CTF teams will already be in place at several high schools. Universities frequently have CTF teams that welcome high school students. One of the most well-known and well-known CTF events is the Def Con CTF.
Rub shoulders with folks who work in the sector is another excellent way to learn about cybersecurity. Attending cybersecurity conferences is an excellent approach to do so. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest cybersecurity events to attend.
One of the most well-known cybersecurity conferences is DEF CON. Every year in the summer, DEF CON takes place in Las Vegas. DEF CON features seminars and sessions by seasoned cybersecurity experts, as well as villages dedicated on lock picking, social engineering, and other topics. Although there is no minimum age to attend DEF CON, parents should accompany their children because it is a “adult” environment.
Another conference that takes place in Las Vegas during the summer is Black Hat. The week preceding DEF CON is known as Black Hat. Black Hat and DEF CON vary in that Black Hat provides full-scale training programmes as well as briefings, whereas DEF CON concentrates on expert talks and hands-on communities. Unfortunately, attendees must be at least 18 years old to attend Black Hat.
Shmoocon, rather than DEF CON or Black Hat, may be a better option for individuals on the East Coast. Shmoocon is a convention for people of all ages that takes place in Washington, DC. Shmoocon is a three-day event that features fast talks and hands-on training.
Many students, for example, are unable to go to Las Vegas or Washington, DC for a conference. Furthermore, many students are unable to afford the high costs of attending conventions such as Black Hat or DEF CON. There are scholarships available, but if you aren’t one of the lucky ones, they may seem out of reach. BSides events are a fantastic alternative.
Safety is paramount. BSides conferences are hosted across the United States. The goal is to make cybersecurity events as accessible to the general public as possible. A BSides event is often free or inexpensive to attend. Check out the BSides website to discover if a BSides conference is coming to a city near you!
Many cities and institutions will organise their own local cybersecurity conventions in addition to the local BSides conferences. Keep an eye out for ads in your neighbourhood.
Many of the credentials required for cybersecurity professions can be achieved while still in high school, believe it or not. Certifications are a great method to develop your IT skills and gain access to entry-level IT jobs soon after high school. Students may find it easier to study for these certification tests than adults since they are at a stage in their lives when they are forming helpful and good study habits. Some of the certificates accessible to both students and adults are listed below.
CompTIA certifications are generally accepted in the IT sector as a whole. Obtaining a CompTIA certification, notably the CompTIA A+ certification, at a young age, opened numerous doors in my personal experience. At the age of 17, I was offered a position as an entry-level network engineer after completing the CompTIA A+ exam. The CompTIA examinations have no minimum age limit, though they do recommend that candidates be at least 13 years old. A+ > Network + > Security + is the recommended CompTIA certification path. Students can pursue more advanced certifications such as the Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) or the Pen Test+ after earning the CompTIA Security+ certification.
Microsoft offers a variety of certificates that are suitable for people of all ages. In fact, the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) to pass the exam was only five years old! Microsoft offers certificates at three levels: Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) (MCSE).
Cisco, like Microsoft, provides specific certifications. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is one of the industry’s most well-known networking qualifications. Many jobs also require the CCNA certification. Minors under the age of 13 are currently not permitted to take the exam, however those between the ages of 13 and 17 may do so with parental approval. Other, more advanced specialised certificates from Cisco are available, such as the Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Security, which is beneficial to people entering the cybersecurity profession. While there is no requirement for applicants to pass the CCNA test before taking the CCNP Security test, Cisco advises that they do so first.
How Parents can Help
It’s difficult to know how to prepare your children for a career that you haven’t followed as a parent. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources available to parents.
First and foremost, start teaching your children about cybersecurity and Internet safety as early as possible. Whether or not your child decides to pursue a career in cybersecurity, everyone should know how to properly navigate the Internet.
The following are some guidelines for staying safe online:
- Never communicate with strangers on the internet.
- Never give out personal information online, such as your age, birthdate, or address.
- If something doesn’t feel right, inform an adult right away.
- Do not click on links sent to you by strangers.
- Adults should always be informed of any inappropriate activity.
Parents should encourage their children to continue studying as they grow older and show an interest in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects by giving them little projects to work on. STEM subscription boxes like KiwiCo or Creation Crate provide wonderful hands-on projects for kids ages ten and above to complete.
Parents might look at local cybersecurity boot camps or summer training camps once their children reach middle and high school. These camps, such as GenCyber, give an excellent opportunity for youngsters to learn about cybersecurity while also making friends with similar interests. Parents can also assist their children by taking them to cybersecurity conferences, whether small local ones or big ones like as Shmoocon in Washington, DC.
The demand for cybersecurity and cybersecurity specialists is unlikely to diminish anytime soon. As fraudsters develop increasingly complex methods of breaking into networks and systems, the next generation of cybersecurity experts must be prepared to confront them.
The earlier you begin training, the more likely you are to become an expert in your field. This is also true in the case of cybersecurity. Students who begin learning about cybersecurity while they are young have a better chance of succeeding in the field.
Cybersecurity, on the other hand, is a diverse range of talents. To pursue a career in cybersecurity, students must first understand computer hardware and software, operating systems, networking, and, on rare occasions, coding.
Fortunately, students can learn the abilities described by using a variety of online resources. A few online options are CyberPatriot, The National Cyber League, Hacker Highschool, Cybrary, and Codecademy.
Students are able to acquire credentials sooner than they would think. Students in high school can take certification tests from CompTIA, Cisco, and Microsoft. These certificates give students a leg up in their careers and may even lead to college credits.
Parents can encourage their children to pursue a career in cybersecurity by taking them to conferences and educating them how to stay safe online early and often.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is critical if we wish to prepare future leaders, citizens, and employees to solve the complex problems they will confront. Cybersecurity is an important component of STEM, and we can assure a safe and secure digital future by teaching children about it at a young age.