California Cyberhub Advisor Henry Danielson’s introduction to cybersecurity came in the form of a headache at his day job. He was the Director of Technology at the Coast Unified School District and found himself dealing with an attack on the district’s WordPress site, followed by a phishing attack on employee email accounts.
Rather than sit back and let those situations get the best of him, Danielson took a proactive approach in remedying them. He changed the SQL security on the WordPress site to make it more secure and worked Gmail’s team to prevent the phishing attack from happening again.
These experiences showed him the value of cybersecurity education as he saw the potential it could have for his students. Danielson has also run multiple phishing campaigns in his district to help employees become more stealth in their cybersecurity posture.
“As a CTO, you are obligated and challenged with protecting the organization and the employees from cyber attacks, social engineering, and threats,” Danielson said. “I find that combination of challenges and problem-solving skills fascinating.”
Danielson also has a passion for education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in child development and a master’s degree in education technology. He saw CyberPatriot and teaching Cybersecurity as a way to combine all of these interests while making a positive impact on his students.
Under his direction, the Coast Union High School cyber team won first place in the 2019 California Mayors Cyber Cup for the South Central Coast Region. The team will compete in the California Cyber Innovation Challenge in June.
“The kids blow me away with their intuition and passion for learning new subject matter and becoming subject matter experts in a specific discipline like Linux or cracking passwords,” Danielson said. “I know we have changed students’ directions for their career paths and developed their passion for information technology.”
Ayen Johnson, CyberPatriot Coach at the Coast Unified School District, met Danielson eight years ago and has worked with him over the past five years to develop a cybersecurity curriculum at the school.
Johnson said he sees Danielson’s dedication to cyber education in everything that he does.
“Henry works hard at making sure our students are exposed to as many opportunities as possible,” Johnson said. “He is a cyber hero because he works tirelessly to ensure their success and receive the recognition they deserve.”
Danielson earned the industry standard, Certified Systems Security Officer (CISSO) in January 2019. Danielson also obtained a Cyber Teacher certificate from the Computer Science Teachers Association in 2016 and has worked with organizations including the Grizzly Youth Academy, California Cyber Institute and the GenCyber Teacher Training Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
He’s also an adjunct instructor at Cal Poly and a CTO mentor at the California Educational Technology Professionals Association and the Cyber-Security Awareness Coordinator South Central Coast Regional Information and Communication Technologies & Digital Media.
He helped more than 100 Girl Scouts earn cybersecurity badges through a program organized by the Girl Scouts of California and the California Cyber Training Complex (CCTC).
“The programs offered by the CCTC are important for girls along the central coast as parents look for resources to help keep their daughters informed and safe online,” said Jody Skenderian, CEO of Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast.
Looking ahead to the next school, Danielson hopes to build the middle school cyber teams at Coast Unified. He’s also been teaching and coaching long enough that he’s beginning to see his former students find success in the cybersecurity field.
“I had one student this year that got into Cal Poly for computer science,” Danielson said. “He started in middle school and ended up becoming captain of the team. He’s a first-generation college student, and I know we changed his life for the better.”
That student, Luis Plascencia, said Danielson was always there for him as a mentor in his cyber endeavors.
“Henry has led me through a path of learning that has evolved my abilities for my future involvement in Cyber Security and Computer Science,” Plascencia said. “I am beyond thankful for everything this course has taught me and will come back to pay it forward to those that prepared me for my future.”