Delaware announces cybersecurity partnership for high school girls

Hackers take part to a test at the Cybersecurity Conference in Lille, northern France, Wednesday Jan. 25, 2017.  (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Hackers take part to a test at the Cybersecurity Conference in Lille, northern France, Wednesday Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Delaware leaders are offering a free training opportunity for high school girls interested in a career in cybersecurity.

The partnership between the state and the SANS Institute offers cybersecurity training for high school girls in Delaware to find out if they have talent or interest in the field through a free online game called, “Girls Go CyberStart.”

“The importance of cybersecurity cannot be understated and I encourage young women in Delaware high schools to take advantage of this opportunity to explore career options in this vital field,” said Gov. John Carney. “Delaware needs a pipeline of talent and a strong workforce to remain competitive in the innovation economy. We are excited to continue our partnership with the SANS Institute.”

Last summer, Delaware was one of seven states to launch CyberStart, a pilot program designed by SANS to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

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In total, 3,300 students signed up, including 359 in Delaware. However, out of the thousands only 165 were women.

“One of the things that was really noticeable after the first iteration was that only 5 percent were females that were engaged,” said James Collins, head of Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information. That prompted SANS to develop Girls Go CyberStart. “I really applaud what the SANS Institute did. They recognized the value of diversity and the need for it in IT and so they came up with an iteration totally focused on getting young ladies involved in cybersecurity.”

“The two best cyber intrusion analysts I have ever met were named Vicki and Judy, but women are woefully underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity,” SANS Director of Research Alan Paller said. “By opening CyberStart to thousands of high school girls, we hope to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

To give more young women in Delaware the opportunity to explore a career in cybersecurity, DTI has partnered with the state Department of Education, and a variety of organizations, including the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, to support and encourage as many high school girls as possible to participate.

“I kind of see this program as sowing seeds for the future by getting young people on a really productive and highly sought after career track and us all benefitting from the value of that diversity,” Collins said.

“Girls are natural-born scientists,” said Anne Hogan, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay. “This program will allow girls to learn by doing, develop important problem solving and leadership skills, and take the lead on their futures.”

Participating students do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or programming experience. All that is required is a computer and an internet connection. Those who excel in the Girls Go CyberStart game will have the chance to win computers and other prizes, as well as a trip, with a parent, to the 2018 Women in Cybersecurity Conference.

Registration begins on Jan. 29, 2018 and ends on Feb. 16, 2018. The first 10,000 women in high school who have registered by the deadline can play the game online from Feb. 20-25.

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