What’s it to you? Middle School Students in Brown County Learn About Cybersecurity

What’s it to you? Middle School Students in Brown County Learn About Cybersecurity

January 17, 2020, Nashville, Indiana

Toy hacking, lock picking, and threat modeling were engaging educational activities for students of Brown County Junior High School (BCJHS) this week.  Eighty-five students engaged in an interactive set of presentations made by Joshua Streiff, Project Manager with IU’s Center on Security & Privacy in Informatics, Computing & Engineering (SPICE) with the goal of helping students to better understand the cybersecurity threats we all face and the career opportunities available for the next generation of cyber defenders.  This was the second year that SPICE was invited to speak to students at BCJHS.

During the presentation, Cybersecurity & You: Living in an Internet of Things World!, Streiff addressed the gap between people’s general knowledge in cybersecurity and the actual risks that the devices we interact with daily actually can pose to users’ security and privacy. Particular attention was paid to Internet of Things (IoT) devices that children have increasing interaction with such as toys, mobile devices, and home appliances and surveillance tools.

In addition to hacked teddy bears and coded messages to decrypt, students were interested in learning about career opportunities in the field of cybersecurity with information about the type of work and well-paid jobs that are available now and into the future.  Emphasis was placed on the accessibility of these fields to every student at the school, not just students already focused on computer science.

According to Streiff,

“Engaging, narrative changing, and accessible educational tools are critical for building the future cybersecurity workforce. So many students self-select themselves out of cybersecurity, incorrectly assuming they are not smart enough, not math-driven enough, not welcome in some way, when nothing could be further from the truth. When students are handed challenges that they can manipulate in their hands, relate to, and have success with, can drastically change the future for those students, as they realize this is a field they can both succeed in and have fun with.”

Indiana University was recently awarded the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program (DOD CySP) grant to be recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Education: Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). CAE -CD is jointly sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The goal of the program is “to reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and expertise in cyber defense.” Co-PI’s Professors L. Jean Camp and Connie Justice, along with Streiff, continuing to develop cybersecurity educational tools for secondary school systems. The researchers also plan to continue the development and testing of expanded challenge modules both in the physical and virtual realm, with the target of deploying them to low socio-economic schools.