Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper is again encouraging high school students in North Carolina to explore careers in cybersecurity by participating in CyberStart America, a free online cybersecurity competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and SANS Institute.
Any student in grades 9-12 can discover their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science while also earning chances to win college scholarships. Complete details, including how to register, can be found at www.cyberstartamerica.org.
“We have to evolve in the way we implement cybersecurity to help keep us safe from online threats,” Cooper said. “Part of how we do that is by attracting the next generation of talented cybersecurity professionals to public service. CyberStart America helps us do that.”
According to Cyber Seek, an initiative funded by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, there are 21,010 vacant cyber-related positions in North Carolina. Nationally, that number tops nearly 600,000.
“Significant, high-profile cybersecurity events across the country this past year have highlighted how vulnerable we are to ransomware and other threats and have underscored how critical it is to protect and defend against them,” said James Weaver, state chief information officer and secretary of the N.C. Department of Information Technology. “Programs like CyberStart America help create educational pathways and opportunities to build a diverse and talented cyber pipeline to help address our future challenges.”
CyberStart America is a series of games in which students solve cybersecurity-related puzzles and explore related topics such as code breaking, programming, networking and digital forensics. Students need no knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate. They learn everything they need to know in the game.
Students who do well can earn access to scholarships and advanced training.
Last year, 1,165 North Carolina students participated in CyberStart America. Eighteen won college scholarships and the opportunity to participate in the Cyber Foundations Academy, a multi-week cybersecurity training and certification course.
Emily Chen, a senior at Panther Creek High School, was among the top 30 students in the nation to have the highest point scores in the competition.
“Prior to this program, I honestly had no idea I could pursue a career in cybersecurity,” Chen said. “I’ve gained skills that made me realize it’s something I really enjoy doing. If you’re hesitant, I just say give it a try. It’s free. You just have to sign up.”