College students and recent graduates in 27 states now have an opportunity to discover their talents and pursue professional careers in cybersecurity, thanks to the emergence of the Cyber FastTrack program, an initiative of the SANS Institute, a distinguished cybersecurity company.
The free program gives any student, no matter their experience level, the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of cybersecurity, improve their resumes, meet potential employers and compete for a share of $2.5 million in scholarship money.
All across the country, recent college grads are struggling to find employment, but the cybersecurity industry is stocked with well-paying jobs that are ready for the taking.
“This is an exciting time to launch the program, as 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 SANS. “Our ultimate goal is to encourage young people to consider a career within the cybersecurity sector. It’s a very lucrative and rewarding industry and we hope by making the program available to a wide range of students, as well as offering scholarships and courses, it will make a career in this field more accessible.”
The program is simple and can be completed online from anywhere in the United States.
It consists of three stages, “CyberStart Assess,” “CyberStart Game” and “CyberStart Essentials.”
As the stages progress, the subject matter gets increasingly difficult, and only the most successful participants move on to the next stage.
Those interested in participating should visit the Cyber FastTrack website.
CyberStart Assess — open to play April 5 through May 10, 2019 — is considered the “tryout level.” In it, students will face a set of “increasingly difficult challenges” that mock realistic cyber threat scenarios.
Primarily, this stage is meant to test the participants’ existing knowledge and measure their potential for a career in cybersecurity.
In addition to testing for aptitude, this primary stage will teach participants how to “recognize and crack codes” and how to “think like a cybersecurity expert.”
The most successful participants move on to the next level, CyberStart Game.
CyberStart Game — open to play May 20 through June 28, 2019 — includes more than 200 challenges that build on the skills that participants learned in CyberStart Assess.
In this section, participants will learn in-depth code cracking, how to identify security flaws, and how to “dissect a cyber criminal’s digital trail,” among other things.
The highest scoring students will move onto the final stage, CyberStart Essentials.
CyberStart Essentials — open to play July 10 through September 16, 2019 — is the final and most challenging stage. The participants will partake in exercises, quizzes, interactive labs and exams geared to help them build the foundation they need to become experts in the field of cybersecurity.
In CyberStart Essentials, participants will learn advanced security topics and concepts, such as computer architecture, programming and how technology can be exploited, among other things.
Earning scholarships and rewards
The top performing students in the program will earn a Cyber Honors Academy Scholarship, which allows them to further their training at the SANS Institute, with a focus on specific courses, such as Security Essentials and Hacker Exploits, and elective courses, such as Digital Forensics, Intrusion Detection and Cyber Defence in Depth.
The leading students will also have the opportunity to meet top employers within the industry, including Vanguard, Fannie Mae and Cisco, experience mock interviews with the industry’s leading companies, and have an opportunity to land a cybersecurity internship, among other things.
Two hundred additional “well-performing” students will receive a $500 scholarship towards their college tuition.
Who can participate?
To be eligible to participate in the program, students and recent grads must be, or have been, a registered student at a community college, four-year college or graduate school within the past two years in 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 or Wyoming.
Additionally, eligible participants must be at least 18 years old on April 5, 2019, be a permanent resident of the United States, and have access to a computer and the internet.
And to be eligible for either of the two scholarships, students must have completed, or be on track to complete, 48 hours of college credits.
“The nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals, and we have evidence that CyberStart improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity industry,” Paller said in a statement.
For more information, visit the Cyber FastTrack website.
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.