The expanded commercial opportunities and medical advancements offered by the much anticipated Internet of Things will also present new security challenges for future cyber warriors. And, considering recent cases in which hackers were as young as 15, it’s imperative that schools and companies encourage kids to protect online data rather than exploit it.
CyberPatriot -- The National Youth Cyber Education Program, for example, was established in 2009 by the nonprofit Air Force Association as a competition to generate interest among high school students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and encourage them to consider careers in cybersecurity.
“We determined that the STEM education challenge was and remains a national security issue; we simply are not drawing enough bright young students to STEM education and careers,” retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch, CyberPatriot commissioner, said via email.
Skoch said the organization originally determined high school age was the “sweet spot” for “the best opportunity for immediately shaping attitudes about cybersecurity and, more broadly, STEM as a career opportunity.”
In 2012, however, the Air Force Association realized the importance of including middle school students in the program. In 2013, the organization conducted a “highly successful” pilot program that allowed middle school students to participate in CyberPatriot, Skoch said.
An October 2013 study commissioned by Raytheon, a major U.S. government defense contractor, corroborates the Air Force Association’s findings: high school students might be too late to reach.
Raytheon’s report found that 82 percent of Millennials said that “no high school teacher or guidance counselor ever mentioned to them the idea of a career in cybersecurity,” and less than 25 percent of young adults were even interested in a cybersecurity career.
A CyberPatriot post-competition survey for the 2013-2014 season found that the competition served to educate participants and inspire them to think about pursuing a cybersecurity career.
Before the competition, only 10 percent of the 641 participants surveyed answered that they possessed a lot of knowledge about basic cybersecurity principles. After the competition, however, that number went up to 50 percent.
The survey also found that following the competition, 60 percent said that they were “very likely” to pursue education or a career in a STEM field, and 43 percent said that they were “somewhat likely” to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
“As you can see, we are measurably changing attitudes regarding STEM and cybersecurity in the youth with whom we work,” said Skoch.
When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s not just credit card data or identity that’s at stake. Internet-connected transportation systems, medical devices, electronic health records, household appliances and wearable technology need to be protected in addition to the power grid, financial institutions and government secrets.
Even as Congress battles over reducing the federal budget, federal funding requests for cybersecurity initiatives indicates a potential area of growth.
The Pentagon, for example, asked for $5.1 billion from Congress in its fiscal 2015 budget to help protect public infrastructure and fund research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. military's advanced research agency, and U.S. Cyber Command, which coordinates the military's cyberspace operations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasted that between 2012 and 2022, more than 27,000 Information Security Analyst jobs will be added to the labor force.
But the BLS forecast may not be indicative of the true demand: a Washington Post report in 2012, for example, pointed to a need for 50,000 new cybersecurity jobs. And as of June 2013, the Government Accountability Office reported a 22 percent vacancy rate in DHS’s own cybersecurity division.