As the magnitude and frequency of cybersecurity events increases, the quantity and quality of skilled personnel to combat threats is lacking. Governments of all levels must address this problem by helping to groom future cyberdefenders for both the private and public sectors.
The Cyber Texas initiative focuses on developing partnerships to develop a workforce of skilled information security professionals. The effort identifies programs in middle school, high school and higher education institutions that prepare students for cybersecurity careers. Partnerships with the private sector connect students to employers and employers to educators.
The Cyber Texas Council supports CyberPatriot, the national youth program to inspire middle and high school students to pursue careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Texas schools can participate in local, regional and national cyber-defense competitions designed to excite, educate and motivate participants to become the next generation of cyberdefenders.
The CyberPatriot Season VII competitors include Team Pegasus, a team mentored by an information security analyst for the Texas Workforce Commission. Located at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the Pegasus Composite Squadron began participating in CyberPatriot in 2011. The team’s continuous growth and improvement has placed it in the top 30 percent of teams in the division.
Last year, I attended the CyberPatriot VI final round in National Harbor, Md., and the level of teamwork and professioalism that each of the teams demonstrated was apparent throughout the competition. Competitors maintained their poise during a tough set of circumstances that included defending their networks against attacks from the Red Team, a group of seasoned security professionals. Seeing how the teens worked together to solve problems provides great hope that our next generation of security professionals will be up to the task of defending against the threats of tomorrow.
Texas aims to support the CyberPatriot program using an example that the community of San Antonio has provided. Teams from San Antonio are honored and celebrated at a Mayor’s Cup Luncheon, and the mayor gives the champions a hero’s welcome when they return from the national championship rounds. The Alamo Academies team that won the Open Division in 2011 began the tradition of leather bomber jackets that participants wear proudly.
Programs like CyberPatriot introduce students at the elementary, middle and high school levels to cybersecurity. The council created a task force to build upon the successes of CyberPatriot, the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and other programs that generate awareness and educate on all areas of information security.
A second task force is now developing strategies to support veterans as they return home from service deployments by introducing them to cybersecurity careers. Utilizing efforts within the Texas Governor’s Office, Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Workforce Commission while connecting with private industry partners, Texas’ Wide Open for Veterans program seeks to tap the growing cybersecurity industry as an avenue to bring these dedicated and skilled service members to much-needed positions.
Cyber Texas is working to ensure that critical infrastructure and sensitive information are protected within Texas and within our nation by leading the way with an exemplary workforce that continues to innovate in the areas of information security, cybersecurity and privacy protection.