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Contest aims to hone girls’ cybersecurity skills

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High school girls are invited to explore the field of cybersecurity through an online game called Girls Go CyberStart.

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From Staff Reports

Friday, February 2, 2018

Gov. Roy Cooper is encouraging high school girls to explore the field of cybersecurity through an innovative competitive online game called Girls Go CyberStart.

Girls in grades nine through 12 can sign up to compete with girls from 16 other states and territories for a chance to win prizes and potentially discover their future career.

By participating in the online competition, girls will learn cybersecurity skills and test their aptitude for future studies or work in this crucial field.

“Business and government face cyberattacks daily, and the threats are only expected to grow in the future,” Cooper said. “We need to recruit the next generation of skilled cyber professionals, including more women. Girls Go CyberStart is a great way for high school girls to explore cybersecurity careers in a fun and interactive way.”

North Carolina is teaming up with the SANS Institute, a cybersecurity research and education organization, and Cisco, a leading global IT firm with a strong presence in the state, to offer the program. Cooper and the N.C. Department of Information Technology are working with schools, youth organizations and technology firms to encourage as many young women as possible to register beginning for the online competition.

Girls can register through Feb. 16 at www.nc.gov/girlsgocyberstart. The contest runs from Feb. 20-25. The first 10,000 girls who register will be able to play.

“Information technology is the career focus of the future, and it is essential to have a diverse workforce in this field so that not only North Carolina, but the United States, has the support it needs to contend in the cybersecurity industry. Women and girls can make that happen,” said Secretary Eric Boyette, the state’s chief information officer and head of DIT.

Each year, the U.S. has 40,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions, according to an analysis by cybersecurity job tracker CyberSeek. By 2019 alone, experts with IT governance association ISACA project a shortage of two million cybersecurity professionals around the world.

“The information technology and cybersecurity industry is growing in North Carolina, and companies’ biggest challenge is finding enough qualified talent,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “The Girls Go CyberStart program will help North Carolina keep up with this growing demand and set girls up for success in challenging, fulfilling IT careers.”

Participating students will work in teams of one to four students and do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or IT experience to compete. Participants do need access to a computer with an Internet connection.

Students will get a chance to experience being a cybersecurity superhero by competing in a series of online challenges that cover cybersecurity, programming, computer forensics and web attacks.

Girls who excel in the Girls Go CyberStart game will have the chance to win tech prizes and gift certificates as well as a trip to the 2018 Women in CyberSecurity Conference in Chicago.

“Worldwide, we have two critical shortages to contend with. Statistics show a shortage of women in IT and an even greater shortage in cyber professionals. It is imperative that we promote security practices and build security practitioners from an early age. This project will hopefully be one of many to fan the flames of interest in our young female students and create a pipeline for cybersecurity within the State of North Carolina,” said Maria Thompson, state chief information risk officer.

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