Idaho News: Idaho joins partnership encouraging young women to explore careers in cybersecurity

Boise, ID (STL.News) – Idaho Governor Little yesterday announced Idaho’s participation in an innovative cybersecurity training partnership with the SANS Institute, the largest provider of cybersecurity training and certification for professionals in governments and commercial institutions worldwide.

The partnership – which is also supported by Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho STEM Action Center – aims to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and identify talented youth across Idaho.

Open to female high school students, the Girls Go CyberStart initiative encourages participants to explore their interests in cyber studies, learn core cybersecurity skills, and build confidence in problem-solving.

“My administration is focused on advancing Idaho’s education system so our talented young students have the opportunity to pursue technical careers in Idaho and beyond,” Governor Brad Little said.  “Initiatives such as Girls Go CyberStart allow Idaho to partner with world-leading experts to develop the next generation of cybersecurity leaders and innovators.”

Girls Go CyberStart is a free online game open to all female students in grades 9 through 12, regardless of their prior knowledge or experience with cybersecurity and information technology.  Schools in which at least five girls in the Girls Go CyberStart Program master six or more of the challenges in the game will win access to the full CyberStart Game and competition for both male and female students for the remainder of the school year.

Playing alone or on teams, participants solve challenges to gain points and advance through levels, earning prizes along the way.  In addition to individual prizes, such as trips, gift certificates, and computers, the three in-state schools with the most participants win monetary prizes.  Idaho girls who participate in the program are eligible to win one of at least ten $500 scholarships for the college of their choice.

High school girls may register for Girls Go CyberStart through March 20, when the games begin. Participating students do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or IT experience.  All that is required is a computer and an Internet connection.  College students may register for the related Cyber FastTrack game and they will be able to start playing on April 5.

In addition to the SANS Institute, Idaho National Laboratory’s Cybercore Integration Center and the Idaho STEM Action Center are key supporters of the initiative.  The INL’s Cybercore Integration Center is focused on developing partnerships, people, and innovations necessary to meet emerging cybersecurity and control systems threats.  The Idaho STEM Action Center is a state-funded agency established to provide Idaho students and educators with increased opportunities in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

“The nation desperately needs more highly skilled cyber professionals, and we have evidence that CyberStart improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field, said SANS Institute’s Director of Research Alan Paller.  “By opening CyberStart to thousands of girls in high school, we hope to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

More information on the program can be found at www.girlsgocyberstart.org and at cyber-fasttrack.org.  To see the types of challenges the students will face in the games, visit https://go.joincyberstart.com/.

In 2015, then-Lt. Governor Little led the Idaho Cybersecurity Task Force, which advocated for new policies, programs and strategies to improve the security of digital systems across the state.  One of the task force’s recommendations was to increase awareness and education in cybersecurity to ensure the state’s current and future workforce was capable of leading Idaho’s future high-tech economy.  The task force also resulted in the creation of the state’s first state director of information security.