Earlier this year, more than 30 schools and over 500 registrants from throughout Southern California came together to compete in the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge — an event that’s designed to open up the cybersecurity community to anyone who wants to participate.
With an unprecedented need in the cybersecurity workforce across California, it’s time for businesses, educators, and other partners to step up to the plate and figure out how to solve this problem. The SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge is one opportunity to do that and organizers hope they can continue to grow the program while serving as a model for other parts of the state.
The Challenge is organized by the Securing Our eCity Foundation, an organization devoted to “helping every San Diegan live, work, and play safely in the cyber world. Additional support comes from the National Defense Industrial Association (NIDA) San Diego Chapter, and National University.
The Securing Our eCity Foundation began in 2008 as an initiative of ESET North America. Over the past several years, the organization has been laser-focused on its youth programs, including the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge. Liz Fraumann, the foundation’s executive director, said the program has grown tremendously over the past nine years, but there’s still room for improvement and additional partnerships from across industry and education.
During her time organizing the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge, Fraumann said she’s frequently encountered potential partners who are interested in helping address the issue of filling the cybersecurity workforce but often lack the follow through to support initiatives to make that goal happen.
“Everyone acknowledges the problem, and often begins addressing it by creating focus groups and task force teams,” Fraumann said. “However, now is the time to dig-in and follow-up, as good intentions are not enough. The landscape is changing, and the competitions and education are the launching pad to help ensure California is proactive instead of reactive to the cyber demands.”
The California Cyberhub partners with Securing Our eCity and many other organizations to facilitate those partnerships and collaborations — with the goal of making it as easy as possible for anyone who wants to jump in an participate, no matter what their background.
“We’ve made great strides, but we are still missing key students who need to and want to participate,” said Cyberhub Community Manager Donna Woods. “We need to reach all the students who have a desire to gain knowledge and participate and we need to reach the organizations who want to be involved.”
“Supporting cybersecurity competitions and events provides organizations of all types with the opportunity to see tangible benefits in the form of engaged students who are making an impact in their communities,” Fraumann said.
“We have worked with and watched students from middle school progress to high school, and now return to assist in the Challenge while they establish careers in the cyber industry, or enrolled in college pursuing their respective degrees in cybersecurity,” Fraumann said. Now is the time for everyone, students and coaches especially, to put together their teams, and get ready for fun and learning. It is about one of the most exciting careers of the future, cyber security!”
In the recent days since the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge Finals, we have had organizations ask what made our Challenge so different and why were the participants so excited. The answer is easy and one word “Gamification, and this is thanks to Circadence, our platform provider.
“In an effort to make our Challenge different than many other experiences the students are exposed to today the platform we used from Circadence, Project Ares,® is unique,” said Liz Fraumann, executive director, Securing Our eCity Foundation. “In fact, all of us organizers, coaches, and mentors alike, felt it was one of the best experiences the kids have ever had.”
The Project Ares platform begins in a Media Center where the students learn about definitions, real news articles and more, they then move to a Game Room. Here they are able to actually play computer games like “Cylitaire” and “PortFlow.” These kinds of games teach basic cyber security understanding and skill-sets. Once the students master this, they move to the next level which is the “Battle Rooms.” Here the students begin to engage with cyber security tools and tasks relevant for tactical practice and to master hands-on-keyboard techniques. And, finally they are ready for “Missions.” This final level, provides the students a mission-specific virtual environment where they are provided with real-world tools, network activity and a large library of authentic threat scenarios.
“The SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge students that participated were transported into an immersive, realistic, and very exciting virtual world. It was incredible and the kids loved it,” said Ms. Fraumann. “This tool is great for the students but, should also be considered by the business community for more “real-world” threat assessment and protection by their IT teams, instead of waiting for the “real-thing” to happen.” “We see the local universities helping to build scenarios. In fact, National University and their cyber security lead, Professor Chris Simpson, are already engaged. He is a testament of what can be done when academia and business work hand-in-hand.”
For the foreseeable future, the organizers of the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge, National Defense Industry Association, National University and Securing Our eCity will count on Circadence and their Project Ares to provide their “secret sauce” for the Challenge as it can grow and change as they do. -world
For more information on the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge and this year’s winning teams, visit https://timesofsandiego.com/education/2018/04/05/del-norte-high-school-the-cambridge-school-take-top-honors-during-socal-cyper-cup-challenge/