Students learn about cybersecurity careers at camp

Kids learned about robotics, digital forensics and cyber programming during the cybersecurity camp in Charleston. (Photo/Joe Bullinger/SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic)Kids learned about robotics, digital forensics and cyber programming during the cybersecurity camp in Charleston. (Photo/Joe Bullinger/SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic)

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published June 22, 2014

Cybersecurity is an incredibly competitive, growing and lucrative sector — and experience and education are both crucial to securing a job in the industry, according to Al Emondi, chief technology officer with SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic.

Demand for cybersecurity professionals is expected to grow as more companies and governments need solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or destroying computer networks.

“We live in a dangerous world. And our military does not operate today without cyber,” said Kevin Cooley, the command information officer with the Navy’s U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. 10th Fleet, who spoke on Friday during the second annual Palmetto Cyber Security Summer Camp in Charleston.

Employment for information security analysts is projected to grow 37% from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most jobs in the field require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Information security analysts earn an average salary of $86,000, data show.

“If you want to command those salaries, you need to have the credentials,” Emondi said at the camp hosted by Lowcountry Tech Academy and Charleston County School District.

Students worked on projects with cyber professionals. (Photo/Joe Bullinger/SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic)
Students worked on projects with cyber professionals. (Photo/Joe Bullinger/SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic)
The idea behind the camp is to cultivate a workforce that can defend and protect information systems, as well as research and develop new cybertechnologies to keep information secure, Sarah Earle, the Lowcountry Tech Academy program administrator, said in a letter.

Noting security breaches at Target and the S.C. Department of Revenue, Earle said, “Cybercriminals are constantly attacking and exploiting information. ... With the increasing mobility and complexity of information technology and the sensitive data contained and transmitted, the demand for cutting-edge cyberwarriors has risen drastically.”

More than 30 SPAWAR employees volunteered with more than 50 kids from Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester school districts during the weeklong cyber camp, which is part of SPAWAR’s STEM initiative that’s partly funded by the National Defense Education Program.

Students and professionals broke up into groups and did hands-on engineering, robotics, digital forensics, computer network defense, cybersecurity and cyber programming projects.

Some activities focused on engineering fundamentals, finding vulnerabilities, the networks behind social media, Web design or computer deconstruction. Local experts spoke to the students about educational tracks and career paths for the field.

Growing up, Cooley never expected to work in the field of cybersecurity because his job did not yet exist. Today, he said, technology and cybersecurity industries are changing constantly, and the demand for qualified workers is far outpacing the graduates who are able to do the work.

Cooley said students need to stay focused and work hard in school to get the grades needed to qualify for a cybersecurity position.

“Don’t limit yourself by saying ‘That’s too hard’ or ‘No one in my family has ever done this.’ The most important limits, the biggest ones, are self-imposed,” Cooley said. “Don’t set limits in your own head. For any problem, there is a solution.”

Cooley promoted the idea of students learning STEM-LC, meaning science, technology, engineering and math, as well as leadership and communication skills.

“Just being smart or just being good at something isn’t enough. You have to be able to communicate and lead,” Cooley said. “You have to get in there and do it, and then great things can happen.”

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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