On Tuesday, April 21, I am leading a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) session at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. The title is “Hacking High: Teaching Our Kids Vital Cyber Skills.” The premise is that we need more kids with cyber smart skills, but they aren’t educated enough on the underlying technologies. This discussion explains those issues and brainstorms ideas for solving them. As the US CyberPatriot mentor of the year, Ron Woerner will talk about his experiences and show you how you can get involved in your community. See more at: https://www.rsaconference.com/events/us15/agenda/sessions/1879/hacking-high-teaching-our-kids-vital-cyber-skills#sthash.NxeQRUQm.dpuf

I was interviewed by Fahmida Y. Rashid, the Editor-in-Chief of the RSA Conference about the session. Her questions along with my answers are below.

1. Who are the attendees who will most benefit from—and contribute to—this peer2peer session? Do you have a specific role or job title in mind? Or even the kind of skills and mindset you are looking for?

The Peer-to-Peer session, “Hacking High: Teaching Our Kids Vital Cyber Skills” is for anyone who sees the great need in our industry for developing skilled cybersecurity professionals. This could be hiring managers, security trainers and educators, or anyone with the passion for building the next generation. This session will explain the issues and brainstorm solutions for meeting that need. There are many great opportunities for existing security professionals to work with the new generation. This goal of this session is to show them easy ways to be part of the solution.

2. Why do you believe that your topic is important for the information security industry—and your attendees—to be thinking about?

We’re in a national crisis. There is a continued need for more skilled cybersecurity professionals, yet we don’t have a consolidated plan for building people with those skills. Additionally, many kids know how to point and click, but they don’t know how the underlying technology works or worse yet, basics on how to keep themselves and their information safe online. This leads to bad choices. To make it worse, most teachers lack resources and personal knowledge to teach technology to teenagers.

The articles below demonstrate the need:

•  “Demand to fill cybersecurity jobs booming” – http://peninsulapress.com/2015/03/31/cybersecurity-jobs-growth/
•  Cybersecurity’s hiring crisis: A troubling trajectory –http://www.zdnet.com/cybersecuritys-hiring-crisis-a-troubling-trajectory-7000032923/
•  Developing the Next Generation of Cyber Leaders – http://www.serco-na.com/docs/materials/2012-cisse-nextgencyber.pdf

There are solutions available, but we need to work together as an industry to implement them. My simple solution is to teach hacking in schools. Kids will do it anyway, so we might as well guide them to keep them out of trouble and develop those critical skills. Everyone I talk with agrees that we need to start teaching IT and cybersecurity skills earlier in schools, but we don’t have a plan to do it. One of the solutions I will discuss is the role of cybersecurity and hacking competitions for 7-12 grade students. As the 2013-2014 Air Force Association CyberPatriot Mentor of the Year, I will be sharing my experiences with participants to show how easy it is to get involved and the many rewards in doing so.

3. Can you describe one or two things you would like the attendees to think about prior to the session, as a way to prepare themselves for the discussion?

Two things I’d like attendees of my session to consider is:

1.  How is your community or school system educating the younger generation to prepare them for the multitude of IT and Cybersecurity careers? Is a cybersecurity curriculum in place? If so, what does it contain?
2.  What are solutions for filling that gap? How can we work together to implement those solutions for our school aged kids.

This allows attendees to understand the problems and then be able to generate and implement solutions for addressing the needs.

4. What kind of outcome are you hoping for at the end of the session? What will attendees walk away with afterwards?

We need more security professionals to lead the education of our next generation. We can’t just leave it to the teachers. Attendees of the “Hacking High” session will fully understand the issues and come away with actionable ideas to be part of the solution. They will hear from other industry experts who are doing successfully doing it in their community to everyone’s benefit. They will see the bright star of hope to meet the critical needs of our industry in a fun and safe way, by teaching hacking in high school.
For more information on these topics, please see my blog entries:

• Why Aim for the Ground? Teaching our kids the right computer skills
• Hacker High – Why we *need* to teach hacking in school
• Lock IT Down @ CYBER++

We all need to work together to solve this international issue. In doing so, we not only build up a new generation, but build ourselves as well.