Cybersecurity — Get in the Game!

Do you have a trophy somewhere in your memory boxes? A medal, certificate, pin or other memento, probably earned on a sports field, that signifies youthful achievement? Cybersecurity competitionsaren’t as ubiquitous as Little League or Pee Wee football; but cyber as a sport is growing in schools. The challenge coins and recognition earned at these events can hold far more value for today’s youth — as well as for our nation, its defense, our economy and workforce development.

With cyber incidents rapidly increasing in frequency and sophistication, the average Joe on the street can probably name a highly publicized hack; however, too few can see that the country is in desperate need of white hat talent. If asked what they want to be when they grow up, how many kids are clamoring to be CISOs or Incident Responders? Not enough!

More than 1.5 million cybersecurity job vacancies are forecast in 2019 — a mere two years’ time. Without a solid pipeline of talent to fill these empty chairs, cyber attackers are poised to inflict significant harm to our economy, our national defense, and our individual liberties. A pipeline is not enough. We need a way to reduce the time it takes to train.

Cyber competitions can help feed the pipeline and better train current professionals.

The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Working Group provides a mechanism by which public and private sector participants can develop concepts, design strategies, and pursue actions that advance cybersecurity education, training and workforce development. Recognizing the need for a deeper look into the role that cybersecurity games can play in developing tomorrow’s workforce, the Competitions subgroup of the NICE Working Group commissioned a whitepaper. More than 25 thought leaders from government agencies, defense contractors, other private industry entities and academia were interviewed. I’m excited to have participated in the study and to be able to share the expert findings here.

Cyber Needs More Fun and Games

Many people see sports and games as training for life. Teamwork displayed on the field of play creates respect for the varied skills and talents on your team, and among your competition. The discipline and commitment to learn a sport might translate into one’s ability to succeed in the workplace. Even small victories can provide the confidence needed to persevere in reaching higher levels. That’s why it’s essential to promote cyber competitions today.

For today’s young adults, digital natives who’ve never know a world without Internet or mobile phones, cybersecurity games can play a critical role in raising awareness of this career path. Games can also help these individuals find new, safe ways to explore their interests and raising the bar on their cyber skills, aptitude and ability to collaborate.

I’ll never forget meeting a father at a cyber competition that I’d organized. With tears in his eyes, we watched his son’s team compete; and he talked about how he hoped to thank the organizers for opening up new worlds for his boy. Baffled by his teenaged son’s isolating preoccupation with computer games, he’d worried how the young man would find his place in the world. Then a group of kids in his son’s school introduced his son to the cybersecurity competition; and his son’s passion began to flourish in a healthy environment. Touched, and a tad speechless, I just smiled and tucked away my memory of the many victories celebrated that day.

Get in the Game and Help Further the Discussion

Please download the whitepaper Cybersecurity Games: Building Tomorrow’s Workforce. Then let us know how cyber competitions have played a role in your career journey. Maybe you learned a new skill, came to understand your strengths, recruited a protégé, or had a chance to take on a leadership role. Or maybe you take issue with an assertion or viewpoint in the paper. Let’s hear from you!