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Girls demonstrate cybersecurity skills at Colorado competition | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


“It’s pretty fun, especially to see a focus being on women in technology and trying to get more women in the field,” said Reilly Harrington, 16.

DENVER — In a world of data leaks and hackers on the internet, the need for cybersecurity workers is in high demand.

But, like a lot of industries, there’s not enough of them. 

According to this year’s Cybersecurity Workforce study, there’s a shortage of 3.7 million cybersecurity professionals. Metropolitan State University of Denver is trying to change that by hosting and supporting young students interested in the field. 

Middle and high school students from D’Evelyn High School gathered inside MSU Denver’s Cyber Range on Saturday to compete in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition.

“Deleting unauthorized users, finding backdoors, or deleting malware from the computer, so it’s stuff like that,” said Reilly Harrington, 16. “You kind of look for those things, things that seem out of place, programs that you know are more malicious and delete them.”

Harrington is a junior at D’Evelyn High School and has been on the all-girls CyberPatriot team since the 7th grade. 

“I find it super fun and interesting,” said Harrington. “I do like programing and more just defending the systems.”

The competition lasts five hours and though she has a lot of fun, Harrington says it can be stressful, too. 

“In those last 15 minutes trying to finish everything up, it can get pretty heart-pounding and trying to figure out how to do it,” she said. “As I’ve gone through the years I’ve learned different techniques to use, how to do it more efficiently.”

“CyberPatriot is kind of like an elaborate capture the flag game, but at the same time it’s a way for them to work in teams. It’s a way for them to interact with their systems in creative ways,” said Jeffrey London, professor of criminology at MSU Denver. “They’re using analytical skills to try to problem solve.”

London said it’s a great way to teach kids how to be safe online, too. 

“To see them come together as a group, see their shared interests, and actually start having fun while they’re at work is really exciting for me,” he said.

London said there’s a shortage of cybersecurity professionals and the need grows each day, as cyberattacks continue to evolve and increase. 

“In America right now we have about 700,000 unfilled positions that pay extremely well,” said London. “Females in general are badly needed in the field of cybersecurity right now.”

Harrington said she hopes to go to college for cybersecurity and computer sciences. 

“It’s interesting to learn about the different types of techniques to use and kind of what you’re looking for and how to solve problems that you find,” she said.

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