Cybersecurity & You: SPICE Goes Back To Junior High

Students at Brown County Brown County Junior High School (BCJHS) got the experience of hacking toys, picking locks, and learning about a wide variety of cybersecurity careers last week. Seventy 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). The goal of the talk is giving students a better understanding of the cybersecurity threats we all face as well as learning about the career opportunities available to students. This was the fourth 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 practical device hacking challenges, students learned about the millions of open cybersecurity positions available to those who are good at problem solving and interested in well paying positions. Students who otherwise might consider themselves “unable to math” or “not a AP student” were encouraged to discover that neither are a requirement for being successful in a cybersecurity career and that the ability to learn and problem solve are central skills.

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 previously 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, continue to develop cybersecurity educational tools for secondary school systems. The researchers also have tested expanded challenge modules in both the physical and virtual realm, deploying them to low socio-economic programs and included them last year in Luddy’s Women’s Cybersecurity Immersion Camp.