Students trained for cyber jobs, web safety

This article originally appeared on KOAA, authored by Patrick Nelson.

COLORADO SPRINGS — A senior official with the U.S. Secret Service estimates $30 billion in stimulus funds will be stolen through coronavirus scams. Most of this money is stolen by cybercriminals, but in Colorado Springs, work is being done to encourage students as they learn to identify these crimes before they happen.

At the National Cybersecurity Center many students are getting the first in-person classroom instruction they’ve had in months because of the coronavirus shutdowns. The hope is the cybersecurity skills they acquire will help them to rebound and be prepared for challenges in the future.

“People have been feeling a little bit hesitant about having face-to-face instruction, but we have been doing a very well. We’ve been taking precautions,” said National Cybersecurity Center Education Program Manager Thomas Russell.

Students from across Colorado Springs are learning cybersecurity skills and are taking on real world scenarios. Students are being trained to build a base of cybersecurity knowledge that can help them defend sensitive information from cyber criminals, or even prepare them for a career in the cybersecurity field where hundreds of thousands of jobs need to be filled. Because of grants and donations this training at the National Cybersecurity Center is free.

“Everyone regardless of the background or income level has an opportunity to learn about it and train for those jobs that are going to be lasting well into the future,” said Russell.

But perhaps the biggest immediate takeaway for students is the mental health boost of in-person learning. Aidan Hybl is preparing for his senior year at Cheyenne Mountain High School.

“Definitely your mind is all in on the virtual machine and trying to find everything that’s wrong with it and you aren’t thinking about the outside world and you’re all focus there. So it’s good to get away for awhile,” said Hybl.

Hybl says it’s eye opening to learn about the hidden threats and vulnerabilities our businesses and communities face online.

“I don’t think people get overwhelmed by the technology aspect, but once you start diving into what people can do to hurt you or get your information, then it’s starting to become overwhelming,” said Hybl. “Even just with fake emails and people being able to get all your information and take you for ransom and make you pay a certain amount. I mean there’s just so many things that can happen right now with the internet and just so many things people can do if you don’t keep your network safe.”

Offering cybersecurity camps through August 7th, the National Cybersecurity Center hopes area school districts will note the significance of what students are learning here and that safely getting back to in-person instruction is important.

“It also builds confidence within the parents, within the students and hopefully the school district administration can see that we can move on and have school,” said Russell. “We just have to take some extra precautions and this will not last forever, but again we have to start somewhere.”

It’s not too late to sign up for future camps being held here at the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs. Visit this link for more information, or to register for one of the cybersecurity camps: https://cyber-center.org/event/cyber-camps/