Jan 16 2015

Student Cybersecurity Champions Awarded Amid High-Profile Hacks

The next generation of cybersecurity experts is earning recognition in nationwide competitions sponsored by the federal government.

With high-profile hacks in organizations such as Sony Pictures and U.S. Central Command gaining worldwide attention, cybersecurity skills have never been in greater need.

Cybersecurity competitions bring together the best of the best students in higher education to test their skills against others and perhaps earn a job interview after they graduate.

Students at the University of Central Florida recently took home top honors in the 2014 Cybersecurity Championship Cup. The event rewards the team of college or university students that scores the most points across several nationwide cybersecurity events throughout the year. In August, Vice President Joe Biden congratulated the team for winning the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

"The Cybersecurity Championship Cup program is designed to encourage collegiate participation in all cybersecurity-based competitions — not just specific events," said Gregory White, director of the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security, which manages the event.

The program is funded with a grant from the Cyber Security Division of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.

Federal departments like DHS have ramped up efforts in recent years to reach out to students and get them interested in the field. In 2010, White House officials launched the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, which helps foster growth in the federal government’s cybersecurity workforce, while also creating partnerships between academia and the private sector. And this year, DHS is expanding its student internship program

In December, Congress passed five major cybersecurity bills, including the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014, which authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology to support education programs for cybersecurity.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that there will be 1.4 million IT jobs in 2020, but only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to fill them. In June, Symantec estimated that 300,000 U.S. cybersecurity jobs are vacant.