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Tech Wonderkind is working to get other teens into cybersecurity

Ishan Jadhwani is a kind of wizard. He can hack into the networks of big tech companies, bypass Wi-Fi restrictions to access his favorite Netflix shows, and write code for his own apps. And the 16-year-old is doing all of this while balancing two jobs in cybersecurity and his schoolwork at Riverside High School.

“It’s a big passion for me. To be honest, work doesn’t look like work. If I could work there every minute, if there was no school, I would,” he said.

He is so highly trained that he has conducted workshops for IRS, DIA, DHS, and CIA employees, teaching network penetration testing and other cybersecurity protocols.

“Ishan is a phenomenon,” said his former teacher Jenifer Marden, recalling him as a freshman in her cybersecurity class two years ago. “Here’s this 14-year-old kid bringing real-life examples into the classroom, telling us how he does bug bounties for fun.”

Bug bounties are rewards given to hackers who find and ethically report vulnerabilities in a company’s networks and programs. Jadhwani said his bounties are confidential, but he has earned much of the change by infiltrating the networks of popular businesses, ranging from the automotive industry to fast food. Chances are that the average consumer will benefit from Jadhwani patches on a daily basis.

In 2020, Marden was nominated for the National Cybersecurity Teacher of the Year Award. Representatives from the White House came to observe Marden’s class. She said they were so blown away by a presentation by Jadhwani on using software to crack passwords, that Marden and Jadhwani were invited to present at the White House. But the pandemic struck, postponing the invitation. Then the administration changed. But Marden hopes Jadhwani can still show his talent to the country’s leaders.

Jadhwani holds 15 cybersecurity certifications, including the highly sought-after CompTIA Security+ and Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect certifications.

“I was probably one of the youngest if not the youngest to have that one. And once I got that, it was very motivating to pursue other certifications,” he said of Amazon’s credentials.

Jadhwani built his first computer when he was 10 years old. But, unlike most tweens, he didn’t have much interest in using it to play video games.

“I was very interested in how computers work, so I bought a computer to learn hacking, because hacking was a really cool subject for me,” he said.

Jadhwani’s parents own and operate Intellectual Point, an education IT solutions and training company where Jadhwani works after school, leading a team of 10 programmers. He balances his role as Senior Director of Technology Services with a part-time position at Government Acquisitions Inc.

“I go to a fully armed data center and run the lab there. It’s a lot of work, but I really have to break down the goals and milestones and have a schedule that I stay consistent with,” he said. “Some days I leave my job at Intellectual Point around 9 p.m. and stop by the data center to set up servers.”

He admits that with his busy schedule, he doesn’t have much time to focus on his schoolwork.

Members of Generation Z take on the invisible war

Jadhwani said he felt the urgency to teach others about cybersecurity. He spends most of his free time instructing other teenagers who are pursuing computer studies.

“I’m extremely worried,” he said of the cybersecurity landscape. “Just look at the way cyber threats are handled today and the insane lack of manpower we have. I feel like we don’t give enough importance to the fact that we have more skilled people are needed to combat these cybersecurity threats.”

Marden echoed that sentiment, saying the unemployment rate for cybersecurity workers is 0%. According to the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, 2.7 million cybersecurity jobs are unfilled.

Marden begins each of his classes at Loudoun Valley High School by showing students the abundance of jobs available to professionals, with no college degree required.

“I want them to see, ‘oh my god, I don’t know what cybersecurity is, but holy cow there’s this thing called a cybersecurity analyst and all I need is a college degree. high school and I could make $50,000 with these certifications,'” she said.

Marden said it was important in her role as a teacher to develop professionals capable of dealing with the ever-changing threats facing society in cyberspace.

“They perform daily in the United States. It can be small threats or big threats,” she said. “With what is happening with Russia and Ukraine right now, you can see that. The cyber threats that have happened there are rippling through our world, and so it’s a big, big deal.

She pointed to the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in May 2021, which thwarted parts of the gasoline supply chain, causing gasoline prices to spike temporarily on the East Coast.

“People don’t understand what it is until it has a financial impact on you. I think we’re going to see more and more attacks like this, and we need more and more people to defend against cyberattacks,” she said.

IT pipeline storage

On April 19, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, alongside Governor Glenn Youngkin, announced that the company would donate $250,000 to the organization CodeVA, an affiliate of the association. national computer education non-profit, to create seven computer lab schools. across the state. If the program is approved by the General Assembly, the schools will emulate CodeRVA Regional High School in Richmond, which serves students from more than a dozen school divisions. At CodeRVA, subject matter is integrated with computer-based learning.

Schools will expand across the state in all regions, including Loudoun County High School.

“CodeRVA is a great example of how innovation and partnership can benefit our students and improve their opportunities. This school is a model for innovation schools across the Commonwealth and demonstrates that we can move beyond a ‘one size fits all’ education,” Youngkin said at a recent school event.

But Jadhwani said teenagers can also get a great education outside of the classroom. He recommends teens research online credentials required for internships or jobs.

“You have to be on the job to gain this experience. There is no school in the world that can offer you all of this. By having those credentials, it gives you a level of credibility with recruiters to get those opportunities,” he said.

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