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Nationwide competition hopes to recruit young cybersecurity pros

By Amy Farnsworth / July 29, 2009

The cybersecurity industry has reported staffing shortages, but a nationwide competition, US Cyberchallenge, hopes to recruit and train 10,000 high school and college students to prepare them for careers in such a field.

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The hunt for the nation's top cybersecurity pros is on.

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High school and college students interested in following a career path in cybersecurity can now sign up to compete in the US Cyber Challenge, a nationwide competition, which will recruit 10,000 promising students in hopes of training them for future cybersecurity positions at federal agencies and corporations.

The US Cyber Challenge, sponsored by The Center for Strategic & International Studies, is the latest effort to ramp up cybersecurity forces – a career field that has reported staffing shortages amidst a growing concern around Internet security threats. Earlier this month, hackers infiltrated corporate and government websites in the US and South Korea. Before that incident, hackers gained access to the US Military's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Project, and a US Military computer base in Afghanistan.

In May, President Obama addressed the nation's failure to adequately fight cybercrime in a speech, citing a Consumer Reports survey which stated that "in the past two years alone cybercrime has cost Americans more than $8 billion. To deter hackers, President Obama plans to appoint a cybersecurity czar, who will help fight cybercrime. (No one has been chosen for the position yet, but murmurings point to former Bush administration adviser Melissa Hathaway, as a possible candidate.)

To help bolster this career field, a consortium of government and private organizations – the US Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Air Force Association, and the SANS Institute – are teaming up to find budding cybersecurity professionals by participating in three cybersecurity competitions and launching new contests at high schools and colleges across the country.

Top students will also be invited to attend "cyber camps," held at colleges, to receive additional training in cybersecurity and participate in competitions. Others will be awarded scholarships or receive internships and job opportunities.

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