CyberSlam 2023 Presents Area High School Students with Cyber ​​Career Opportunities

CyberSlam 2023 students were surprised to receive anonymous Air Drop alerts on their phones.

students work with the CyberSlam 2023 drone
High school students fly drones during CyberSlam 2023. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Fortunately, this was part of a test set up by US Secret Service members Michael Johns, Matt O’Neil and Michal Condor to demonstrate that cybersecurity-related hacks can happen anytime, anywhere. . They also highlighted the illicit use of cryptocurrency.

“Hopefully you take one out, don’t accept any of those airdrops you may have seen, and two, watch your social media,” said O’Neil, a cybercrime expert. who heads the Global Investigative Operations Center (GIOC) and Cyber ​​Intelligence Section (CIS) of the Secret Service.

Secret Service members joined Homeland Security experts, high school teachers, George Mason University professors and more than 400 students from five counties and 22 high schools for the hands-on cybersecurity event that took place. held on January 9.

Last year’s event was open to Loudoun County students, but with increased interest and attendance, the Johnson Center at Mason’s Fairfax Campus was the perfect venue.

The students flew drones, tested their cybersecurity knowledge, and even blocked a theoretical cyberhack. They also received career advice, including tips for keeping their social media feeds clean.

Professor and Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement at the College of Engineering and Computing Lisa Wilson Durant also talked about the importance of cybersecurity.

“You are here because of your interest in cybersecurity,” Durant said. “We hope that over the next few years these skills you have honed will develop into real expertise that will impact the quality of our lives and even the security of nations around the world.”

In Virginia alone, there are currently more than 60,000 open cybersecurity jobs, a number that Durant says will continue to grow in the years to come.

“Energy networks, autonomous vehicles, even your doorbell, your microwave, your refrigerator, think of medical systems, [all of these] are things that need to be secured now and are vulnerable,” Durant says. “This is a critical time for the work you are going to do.”

Mason has established a cybersecurity engineering department, the first of its kind, in Virginia in 2020. The College of Engineering and Computing will be a key part of Fuse at Mason Square (formerly Arlington Campus), which will house a mix of academic R&D and related education programs, as well as business innovation labs, incubators, accelerators and coworking facilities when it opens in 2025.

The event was organized with the help of members of Mason’s Systems Engineering and Operations Research department, as well as teachers from Briar Woods and Loudoun County high schools.

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