The best of times and worst of times in security education

Technology is transforming the classroom. Are students, teachers, and the security industry ready and able to take on next generation security challenges?

Next Generation Education

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” No, I’m not talking about Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I’m talking about the Internet Age where we have powers beyond our ancestor’s imagination literally at our fingertips. We can work, play, and communicate from almost anywhere and anytime. The flip side is the dangers where people, systems, and data are breached on an all-too-frequent basis. Since you’re reading this, none of it is new to you. What may be new is how Education Technology is rapidly evolving to meet the needs of both students and industry, which epitomizes the best of times and the worst of times.

This blog is about educating the next generation of security leaders. Over the next few months, you’ll come to understand the current state of security education; the good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly. 

As a security professional, you may not be aware of all that’s happening in the world of Education Technology (#EdTech) and how it affects the security community. Teachers are using a wide variety of tech tools from smartphones and tablets to Internet applications like Google Docs, Twitter, Edmodo, Udemy, etc. Classrooms are being flipped to be student-focused rather than the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ lecture. The cloud has reached the classroom to where students learn from almost anywhere, anytime from any computing platform. Academic institutions at all levels (K-12, colleges, and universities) are scrambling to keep up with the rapid pace of technology.

Study after study shows we’re lacking combatants on the cyber battlefield to take up both offensive and defensive roles. Steve Morgan’s Cybersecurity Business Report validates this need in the posts Cybersecurity job market to suffer severe workforce shortage and Worldwide cybersecurity market continues its upward trend. He offers some solutions such as, “parents sending their kids to cybersecurity school,” and “getting a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity.” However, there are underlying issues preventing these from being complete solutions.

One is the disconnection between what’s required by the security industry and what’s currently provided in academia. The body of knowledge for cybersecurity professionals requires such a wide berth that covering all of those areas at any depth is nearly impossible in the traditional classroom. Educators are forced to focus on some areas, while dropping others. They usually pick what’s easiest to teach in the classroom or their interest area or specialty, rather than what’s most needed in the ‘real-world.’ 

[ ALSO ON CSO: Is student data at risk due to out-of-date privacy laws ]

Then there’s the issue of developing essential professional skills such as hands-on technical know-how, real-world problem solving, and fundamental collaboration / communications abilities. Standardized, multiple choice (guess) tests only go so far. Creating and then grading assignments to meet these needs is much easier said than done. Educators at all levels need to be connected with industry professionals to understand and meet the burgeoning needs of not only what’s being taught, but also how.

There are many great activities promoting the next generation of security leaders. Conferences are getting kids involved in safe arenas to learn cybersecurity and practice their skills. Examples include the RSA Conference’s Cyber Safety Village, R00tz held in conjunction with BlackHat/DefCon, and the Hak4kidz conferences.

Cyber competitions promoting both offensive and defensive skills are also available to students from elementary school up through graduate studies. Examples of this area include US CyberPatriot, the ISC2/MITRE Cyber Challenge 2015, and National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC).  Dr. Dan Manson from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, is consolidating information on the Cybersecurity Competition Federation website.  

If you have a cybersecurity competition or kids’ event you’d like promoted in this blog, please let me know.  More information on all of these resources will be coming in future posts.

We have many opportunities to work together to solve this problem of developing more and better students with cyber savvy skills. We need you to join us in educating, training, and preparing the next generation of security leaders.

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