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Delaware enlisting girls to fight against hackers

Girls Go CyberStart
Wilmington News Journal

Jessica Bies Delaware News Journal USA TODAY NETWORK

Listen up, girls.

Delaware needs your help this month defending the state’s internet grid against a gang of cybercriminals and hackers. Our online safety and security rest in your hands. Report to Cyber Protection Agency headquarters and get to work immediately!

Or at the very least turn on your computers and sign for Girls Go CyberStart, a free online game that provides high school girls a chance to learn basic cybersecurity skills while competing for cool prizes, such as a Chromebooks, gift cards, and wireless headphones.

Delaware is one of several states partnering with the security training company, SANS Institute, this month to try to get more girls interested in careers in cybersecurity, according to the state’s Chief Information Officer James Collins. “Girls Go CyberStart is a fun way for young women to test their skills to find out if they a talent or interest in becoming a cybersecurity professional at no cost,” he said.

Each player starts as a “cyber protection agent” responsible for protecting an important operational base. The student chooses and solves challenges, earning points along the way. When the player has solved a sufficient number of challenges at one level, a new levelopens up and new challenges appear – for a total of 10 levels altogether.

Delaware students will participate alongside students from Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming and American Samoa.

If the game sounds familiar, it’s because Delaware actually debuted it over the summer. A total of 359 students ended up enrolling in the practice round.

But only about 5 percent of those students were girls, according to Cyber-Star t.

Young women’s lack of participation inspired the SANS Institute to launch a second, girls-only challenge. Getting high school girls interested in the career can help balance out what is already a male-dominated field.

Women made up only about 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce in 2017, according to Center for Cyber Safety and Education.

“The two best cyber intrusion analysts I have ever met were named Vicki and Judy, but women are woefully underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity,” SANS Director of Research Alan Paller said in a statement.

Anne Hogan, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, said the challenge lines up with what her organization is doing and that she encourages young women to get involved.

“Girls are natural-born scientists, which is why we introduce Girl Scouts of every age to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to help them see how they can improve the world,” she said in a statement. “This program will allow girls to learn by doing, develop important problem solving and leadership skills, and take the lead on their futures.”

Registration began Jan. 29 and ends Feb. 16. The first 10,000 high school girls to register by the deadline can play the game online from Feb. 20 to Feb. 25.

Participating students do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or programming experience. All that is required is a computer and an internet connection. Girls who excel in the game will also have the opportunity to win a trip, with a parent, to the 2018 Women in CyberSecurity Conference in Chicago. More details about the program can be found at www.GirlsGoCyber-Star t.com.

Contact Jessica Bies at (302) 3242881 or jbies@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicajbies.

Looking for more education news? Visit delawareonline.com/education. Submit story ideas at http://delonline. us/2i2tugB.

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Sunday, February 4, 2018 - 17:00