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Cybersecurity Program Aims To Reduce Digital Skills Gap
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A national cybersecurity program designed specifically for high school girls has launched, to encourage more females into the industry and reduce the digital skills gap. Girls need to be at least 13 years old and in grades nine through 12 to qualify. The program awards winning participants with cash prizes of up to $1,000 and college scholarships of $500. There are three stages to the program: CyberStart Assess, CyberStart Game and CyberStart Compete. California is among the states participating in the initiative.

Girls-only cybersecurity program Girls Go CyberStart is the result of a partnership between 27 state governors and SANS Institute. It is designed to encourage more young women into the cybersecurity sector and reduce the digital skills gap in America. Those in public and private schools are eligible as well as those in a homeschool environment.

To register for the program, girls, teachers, or administrators associated with a school or organization, need to sign up at:

The interactive extracurricular activity consists of three stages, with each stage featuring a series of digital challenges that are designed to introduce participants to important concepts in the field of cybersecurity.

When registered, girls will be sent a link to the first stage, CyberStart Assess, which consists of a series of questions that measure existing knowledge, problem-solving skills, and the potential for a career in cybersecurity.

To progress to the next two stages of the program; CyberStart Game and CyberStart Complete, participants must be registered with a ‘club’, which can be easily set up by a school teacher, administrator or equivalent.

CyberStart Game involves learning cybersecurity techniques to tackle real-world challenges including cracking codes, finding security flaws and dissecting a cyber criminal’s digital trail. Finally, CyberStart Compete is for the best performing teams from each participating state, and will see them compete in a national online ‘Capture the Flag’ competition.

The program is offering multiple prizes for completion; three schools will be entered into a prize draw to win $1,000, clubs with the highest number of girls registered will win $1,000, $750 and $500 respectively. The top-scoring Capture the Flag teams both nationally and in each state will win cash prizes for students and their schools. At least ten high-scoring high school juniors and/or seniors per state will win $500 college scholarships.

The 27 states that have registered participation are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming.

“This is an exciting time to launch the program, cybersecurity is becoming ever more important in this country and by educating young people, we can ensure the industry has a stream of diverse new talent.” said Alan Paller, Director of Research at the SANS Institute.

Girls Go CyberStart was a huge success last year, so officials are hoping even more students and schools will sign up this year. The ultimate goal is to encourage young women to consider a career within the cybersecurity sector.

The SANS Institute was established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization. SANS is the largest provider of cyber security training and certification to professionals at governments and commercial institutions world-wide.