Ever heard of a “white-hat” hacker? Or a “denial of service” attack? If you haven’t, don’t worry: These high school students have you covered.
More than 100 tech-savvy teens from across Maryland came to Lockheed Martin’s Gaithersburg campus to talk about cybersecurity.
“We desperately need your help,” U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) told them at the event last Wednesday. He said Americans need to be able to defend themselves against cyberterrorists, identity theft and other security breaches, and that the country is “vulnerable today.”
“You can make a difference,” he said, “but it starts with the students.”
Lockheed Martin’s third annual Cyber Security Awareness Day attracted students enrolled in Maryland’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, programs. The company hopes to influence those students to choose careers in cybersecurity.
Two 16-year-olds from the Center of Applied Technology North in Severn said the event sessions about “advanced persistent threats” was their favorite.
“That’s the one I understand, DOS and brute force attacks,” said Briana Lassiter of Severn. A denial of service attack, said James Wei, a STEM outreach coordinator at Lockheed Martin, is when hackers try to bring down a Web site or system by flooding it with access requests. As for white-hat hackers, they’re good guys who try to find and fix holes in a system’s virtual security.
Lassiter and Terri Jackson of Glen Burnie said they’ve been interested in technology since before high school.
“I’ve always liked computers,” Jackson said. Lassiter explained that her brother works for the National Security Agency. Both are taking advanced computer networking classes at their high school.
Art Jacoby, chief executive of the Tech Council of Maryland, said a career in cybersecurity is a smart choice.
“Nothing, and I mean nothing, is hotter than cybersecurity,” he said. “There is nothing more imperative than fighting the bad guys.”
Rick Johnson, vice president and chief technology officer at Lockheed Martin, said his company prefers to hire high school and college students early on, as they start to take an interest in technology.
Springbrook High School student Andrew Dicken, 17, has been an intern at Lockheed Martin since the summer. The Silver Spring resident said the event’s session about staying secure on Facebook was his favorite.
Dicken directed his fellow students as they moved among the event’s sessions about social media, the Department of Homeland Security and other topics.
Wei works with students such as Dicken in the company’s internship program, many of whom are already knowledgeable about programming and other high-tech skills.
“This just gives them a playground to let that all out,” Wei said.
Montgomery College professor David A. Hall said interest in cybersecurity classes at the Germantown campus has grown in the past few years.
The college used to have one or two sections of an introductory course that were not completely full. Now, he said, it has expanded to three sections with a waiting list.
The number of students taking the classes has “easily tripled or quadrupled,” Hall said, with many completing Montgomery College’s two-year program to continue studies at the University of Maryland.
Lockheed Martin’s collective goal is to create interest in cybersecurity, spokeswoman Mary Phillips said. The company wants to make the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersafety motto, “Stop, Think, Connect,” as well known as the fire safety mascot Smokey Bear, she said.