Every year I am amazed at the results of my end of the year survey. The lesson the students remember the most is the first one I present during their junior year in Cyber Security 1. The students spend a lot of time searching the internet for their lessons. I was shocked the first year of teaching the class that the students did not know how to search the internet effectively. It was surprising to me because my students have grown up with technology and I assumed the students were taught early how to search. Every year my survey indicates they have never been taught the skills before this class.
I spend two- three class periods at the beginning of the year teaching how to use Google which I include the history and premise of Google search. The practice examples will begin with basic search techniques, keep it simple, to advanced techniques, a specific site within a time period. We spent the last day doing an internet scavenger hunt. Some of the items they search are related to cyber security. The others are intended to show how the first result is not always an accurate answer. Only 25% of the students will find the correct answer for the last query because they do not read the question correctly or they click on the first link that provides a partial answer but not the correct answer. We then talk about the importance of checking more than one site to confirm the answer.
We spend time talking about other search sites. Since this is a cyber security class, we talk about how Google tracks your search and which search engines do not. I have the students explore other search engines that are written for specific topics.
At the end of the year, CAL gives a VALedictorian (word play on valedictorian and our school’s name) for each cohort of our students. The VALedictorian is not the student who has the highest gpa but the one whose qualities represents our cohort. They have done well in our classes or have shown major growth from their junior year to their senior year, demonstrate good attendance and professional behaviors, and have been involved with outside activities representing CAL. A majority of the years, the student was chosen to represent the CIS department will mention that ‘Mr. Braught tells us to Google it’ in their speech. It is because I teach three steps for solving any problem and they hear this phrase a lot.
- Try to solve the problem from your own experience or search the internet for the solution.
- Ask someone at your table or in the class to help you.
- Ask your instructor as a last result. I constantly emphasize with the students that they will need to expand their network when they head to college.
I give examples for each step from my experiences when I was a network administrator and I ran into an issue. I would check my notes from previous issues, search the internet to see if there is a solution or call another colleague.
My students will get frustrated with me for not providing an answer because teachers are always supposed to know and to supply the answers. I do not always have the answers because technology is constantly updating and my goal is to teach them to be problem-solvers.
Checking the news each day will reveal another cyberattack. The attack could be a cybercriminal stealing money or customer information, a hacktivist organization defacing a web page to promote or denounce an idea, or a nation state disrupting a critical infrastructure such as the electrical grid. Who starts these attacks? Is it the hacker writing the code or the user who clicks on a link in their email? Teaching cyber security prepares the students for growing career opportunities. The more knowledge users have with their technology, the more secure the user will be and the less chance the users will spread the cyberattack.
According to CyberSeek, there are 348,975 total cybersecurity job openings. In Oregon, my home state, there are 4,844 jobs available. Last week I visited with a Director of Information Security for a large corporation after he gave a presentation and he said it will take six months to hire someone for his security position. He said the average salary is over $100,000. He also highlighted in his presentation our local community college, MHCC, and said that he would hire someone immediately with an associate’s degree. Students need to be aware of the career opportunities in cyber security and given the opportunity to prepare for this career choice.
Cybersecurity education should begin in elementary school and never end. Students and employees should be constantly educated about security. Do you know why you should never put a thumb drive in your computer when you find one in the parking lot? An employee probably caused a meltdown of a nuclear reactor when he picked up a thumb drive in the parking lot. An employee may have caused the Ukrainian electrical grid to shut down when he downloaded an attachment that should have looked suspicious.
Cyber security education is a lifelong adventure. The career pathways are varied according to CyberSeek and the salary is above average. The protection of our personal information and critical infrastructure is dependent upon our individual actions and we need professionals to keep us secure.