High School Teachers Try to Hack it at NYU-Poly Cyber Security Boot Camp

NSF-Funded Summer Training Program to Help Teachers Shape Tomorrow’s Cyber Leaders

This week, a select group of high school teachers from around the country will begin a high-intensity boot camp program at the downtown Brooklyn campus of Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly). But rather than scaling walls or doing push-ups, these educators will be learning the ropes in computer security as part of a program to help teachers mentor the cyber security experts of tomorrow.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored program is a collaboration between NYU-Poly and CUNY New York City College of Technology.  It is an outgrowth of NYU-Poly’s Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW), an annual competition that unites teams of high school and college students for a week of white-hat hacking, forensics, capture-the-flag and embedded systems challenges. Now in its ninth year, CSAW is a premier cyber security education event, attracting students from across the globe.

CSAW Cyber Security Summer Boot Camp is part of NYU-Poly study funded by the NSF to gauge the effectiveness of cyber security competitions in encouraging high schoolers to pursue careers in the field. It will also explore ways of boosting the number of women entering cyber security. Women and minorities are dramatically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Twenty-six high school math and science teachers from 13 states will participate in this first, all-expense-paid CSAW Cyber Security Summer Boot Camp. Teachers will receive training in the fundamentals of cyber forensics and other security-related disciplines. They will participate in cyber security challenges similar to those mounted each year at CSAW. Teachers will also learn to integrate cyber security into their computer science curricula for the classroom.

Leading the effort is Nasir Memon, professor of computer science and director of NYU-Poly’s internationally recognized Information Systems and Internet Security Lab. “The mission of CSAW is to build the skills of future cyber security leaders, but the finals run just one week — students with an interest in this field will reap tremendous benefits from having a knowledgeable mentor in their home school, working with them throughout the year,” he explained.  

Memon said he receives frequent inquiries from students wishing to participate in CSAW but who are unable to find a qualified teacher to lead a school team. “This program is a first step toward increasing the number of students who will find their enthusiasm about cyber security matched and fostered by their own teachers,” he said

The United States is facing a critical shortage of cybersecurity professionals, a situation that President Obama has deemed a national security crisis. Rising rates of cybercrime now impact nearly every sector of business as well as individuals, and estimates show that the country needs to grow its computer security workforce by at least 30,000 highly qualified professionals.

While computer security is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative careers in the sciences, women are dramatically underrepresented. Only 10.5 percent of computer science graduates from engineering schools are women, despite the fact that women outnumber men as college graduates in general. In the United States, just 13 percent of the cyber security workforce is female, and in Europe and Asia, the number is even lower. 

Boot camp participants will return to their home schools to start and mentor a team to enter the 2012 CSAW High School Cyber Forensics Challenge in November, along with a commitment to help another school in their community do the same. They will also place special focus on encouraging young women to join the teams.

“We’re aiming to create cybersecurity education evangelists, and hope that this first group of teachers will return with both the passion and the know-how to engage their students and those in neighboring schools,” Memon added. “Ultimately, this isn’t only about fun. The safety and privacy of the Internet and all our mobile devices will someday be in the hands of these students, so we had better be sure they are prepared.”

For more information about CSAW, visit http://engineering.nyu.edu/csaw2012.

About Polytechnic Institute of New York University

Polytechnic Institute of New York University (formerly Polytechnic University), an affiliated institute of New York University, is a comprehensive school of engineering, applied sciences, technology and research, and is rooted in a 158-year tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship: i2e. The institution, founded in 1854, is the nation’s second-oldest private engineering school. In addition to its main campus in New York City at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, it also offers programs at sites throughout the region, around the globe and remotely through NYUe-Poly. NYU-Poly is an integral part of NYU Abu Dhabi, NYU Shanghai and the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) in downtown Brooklyn. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.