If you’re a high school teacher, the answer to improved cybersecurity might actually be sitting in your classroom. It turns out, some of the best and brightest white hat hackers are actually high school students.
Earlier this year, high school senior Jack Cable won the annual Hack the Air Force event — called a bug bounty — by identifying 30 vulnerabilities on the network before 271 other white hat hackers could.
And, that wasn’t his first rodeo. Cable ranks No. 67 on HackerOne’s all-time leaderboard of worldwide hackers.
“It’s always fun to be able to find something you shouldn’t be able to do,” said Cable in a Nextgov interview.
With data breaches in the education sector skyrocketing this year — security firm Gemalto reported that they rose 103 percent in the first half of 2017 — turning digital natives into white hat hackers is a solution that some schools have explored.
High School Hacking Programs Boost Cybersecurity Skills
By teaching students how to hack for good, educators offer up an enticing way to give students the hands-on experience valued by colleges and companies alike.
At Parkville High School in Baltimore, Md., students in networking classes don’t just learn how to set up a network, they also learn how to hack into them.
“You can’t just follow a textbook,” Parkville educator Nicholas Coppolino told Education Week.
Students in Coppolino’s classes attack a network to learn how to analyze an attack and the fundamental skills necessary to protect the network.
Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C., teaches similar skills in its ethical hacking classes. Students learn the ins and outs of network security through the fun, puzzle-solving act of hacking. Outside of class, students also participate in the school’s Black Falcons cybersecurity club.
“You get a better understanding of how things work through networks and servers,” club member Nathan Mulder told WRAL.com in February. “It opens your eyes to potential security risks as well as how to prevent them in the real world.”
Hacking programs allow students to go beyond the jargon in technical textbooks and see what a career in cybersecurity might really be like.
By engaging students in high school, Green Hope High School teacher Chris Gaw told WRAL.com that he believes he can spark their interest in cybersecurity careers.
While less traditional than most classes, colleges clearly value the skills that hacking programs give today’s students. WRAL.com reported in February that some members of the Black Falcons had received scholarship offers.