Digital threats are everywhere. As more and more people save personal information online, whether that’s with retailers, school districts, or even the federal government, the need for Cyber Security grows increasingly important. To meet that need, we must train a workforce prepared to deal with Cyber Security threats and that begins in the classroom. 

Over the past several months, Macro Connect has seen some great new opportunities to start introducing students to the world of Cyber Security. These experiences look different with elementary school students vs. high school Juniors, but to start making a difference, you need to take action. Cyber Security is an exciting, dynamic, and high-paying field. Who wouldn’t want to get involved?!

It Begins with STEM

A robust STEM education is the foundation for any high-quality Cyber Security training. It may sound obvious, but you can’t jump straight into Cyber Security without a basic understanding of computers and the internet. Macro Connect provides some high-quality computer science courses for students from K-12. These courses introduce the basic ideas behind programming and gaming, and according to the National Initiative for Cyber Security Careers and Studies, “Cyber Security is like gaming but better.”

We also have a special, proprietary course called Code to Compose that introduces young people to the world of computer programming by allowing them to create their own original music. C2C bridges the gap between the arts and sciences by emphasizing creativity, collaboration, and fun! If your school already has a great STEM program including computer science elements, great! Read on to learn about some more concrete activities that can help introduce the concepts of Cyber Security and give students a taste of the industry.

1. Start Early with a Conversation

The first and easiest way to introduce students to the world of Cyber Security is to simply talk about it. Many of them have probably never even heard of it. And most of them probably have no idea what it’s all about. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber and Infrastructure Security Administration have published a few guidelines, more specifically targeted at younger learners.

Kindergarten – 4th Grade

For children in Kindergarten through 4th Grade, you can start by asking students how they would define “The Digital World.” Ask them to name a game they play online or if they can come up with an example of a Cyber Security job. Then, you can move on to some activities like having them draw a picture of what they imagine when they hear the term “Digital World.” They might also draw a picture of someone working in Cyber Security and the tools they might use. You can end by either inviting a Cyber Security professional into the classroom to talk about their job or show the class a YouTube video about Cyber Security Careers.

5th and 6th Grade

For slightly older students, you can have a little more complex conversation. Start by asking what skills they think are necessary for a career in Cyber Security. Then move on to talking about the differences between Black Hat, White Hat, and Grey Hat Hackers. Finally see if they know what a firewall is. After the discussion, have the students research the importance of passwords and make a presentation on what makes a password strong.

2. Try a Training Camp

There are many digital training or coding camps offered throughout the country, mostly in the summer. Digital Media Academy Tech Camps and iDTech offer one-week or two-week summer experiences for children ages 7 to 19. They teach students how to think like a hacker so that they can stay ahead of them. They immerse students in the world of computer programming, network administration, and system design so that they can get a concrete idea of what Cyber Security is all about. Camps like this teach a lot of extremely valuable computer science skills and concepts like algorithm creation, encrypting, network security, cryptography, and the basics of several programming languages like Java, C#, Swift, and Python. After a week at a camp like this, your young learners will have a great head start in the field. Digital Media Academy Tech Camps even offer scholarships to make it more affordable for more students.

3. Play a Game

We love to make learning fun through our Code to Compose program and our Computer Science Week lessons. It turns what seems like a dull or nerdy subject into something everyone can enjoy. But we’re not alone. There are an amazing number of digital experiences and apps coming out that introduce young students to the world of coding by turning it into a game. Check out some of the games listed below and try your luck at keeping everything secure!

4. Enter a Competition

The Technology Student Association, formerly known as the American Industrial Arts Association, is a nationwide organization dedicated to students enrolled in technology and engineering classes in middle school and high school. One of their programs is a nationwide Cyber Security competition where student groups across the country can compete against each other virtually. They can track progress online via a scorecard and have the chance to be recognized as champions at the National Conference.

Another competition from picoCTF is a free computer security game targeted at middle school and high school students that is designed and managed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, PA. It includes a series of challenges set around a storyline that asks students to solve a variety of Cyber Security puzzles. There are even prizes for the winning teams that include trips to Carnegie Mellon University.

A third competition called the Governor’s High School Cyber Challenge is open exclusively to Michigan students. Students can form a team of up to three individuals to participate in a round of challenges designed to test their knowledge of Cyber Security, computer science, and information technology. It’s free and all schools in the state are invited to join!

5. Offer Cyber Security Courses

The most robust, albeit challenging, way to introduce students to Cyber Security to students is to offer official classes about it. There are a variety of different resources out there to help you design a curriculum, but one we found and like is offered by CodeHS. They have both Middle School and High School level course material. The programs start by introducing Cyber Security, why it’s important, and what kinds of careers are available. Then they move on to digital etiquette, how to manage their digital footprint, and how to protect their information and themselves from risks like cyber-bullying. Additional coursework explores developer tools, source code, the basics of cryptography, and the fundamentals of network management. Take a look and see if something like this might be the right fit for your school.

Get Started Today

We encourage every school and educator to do or recommend one of these things to their students. Cyber Security is incredibly important for the future of our country and economy and the job opportunities are only growing in demand. Help kids get started thinking about a job in Cyber Security early so they can learn, play, compete, and try it out while they’re still in school. And if you’d like any help, especially with programs like our Code to Compose, or you’d like us to come in for Computer Science Education Week, just give us a call or send us a message using the button below!

Cyber Security Training for Staff

Being educated in this area is just as, if not more, important for your staff. 92% of malware is delivered by email and according to the CyberArk Global Advanced Threat Landscape Report 2018, 56% of IT decision makers say targeted phishing attacks are their top security threat. Macro Connect’s Cyber Security Awareness Training helps minimize that risk by educating staff on the latest trends used by cyber criminals and how to spot them. Contact us today for an assessment of your cyber security preparedness and to schedule your personalized staff training.