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Teens Hone Their Hacking Skills in National Competitions Guided By Federal Officials

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Maryland Cyber Challenge

Participants in the Maryland Cyber Challenge received training in computer ethics during the lead-up to the cyber-contests.

Credit: University of Maryland

Federal officials are guiding national cybercontests aimed at helping tech-savvy teenagers prepare for careers in protecting the government and private companies from hackers. Students at Baltimore's Loyola Blakefield prep school, for example, have been meeting twice weekly to prepare for the Maryland Cyber Challenge, in which participants will debug viruses and combat mock cyberattacks staged by IT professionals. The Pentagon is expanding its Cyber Command from 900 to nearly 5,000 cyberprofessionals, with the additional hiring challenge that applicants must have completely clean records. To prepare for cybercontests, students receive computer ethics training in addition to learning advanced computer skills, notes SAIC's Scott Kennedy.

Experts say the cyberthreat is widespread, as utilities, power companies, technology firms, banks, Congress, universities, and media organizations all recently have faced attacks. "The threat has evolved so quickly," says Northrop Grumman's Diane Miller. "It really has created a sense of urgency."

Fred Cate, director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, says human error is a larger problem than a lack of cybersecurity skills, with people revealing passwords to coworkers and leaving laptops unguarded in public. "We need people trained not just how to write code for stronger protections, but also systems to guard against human-behavioral attacks," Cate says.

From The Washington Post
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