I attempted to work with the previous administration’s Department of Education regarding cybersecurity and digital forensics, but got the deer-in-the-headlights look– literally. They referred me to Department of Homeland Security. Really!
I have lived in Anne Arundel County, Maryland for 15 years now. We have a population of just over 550,000. I believe that Anne Arundel County is arguably the Cybersecurity Capital of the free world. Here in Anne Arundel we have NSA, US Cyber Command, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Naval Academy, Ft. Meade, and the Defense Cyber Crime Center to name just a few. Besides the tens of thousands of government cyber professionals in Anne Arundel Co., we have even more government contractors specializing in cyber.
With this in mind when I worked at the Defense Cyber Crime Center, I contacted the Anne Arundel County high school closest to where I live. I found that each high school has a “Signature Program.” Anne Arundel describes the Signature Program on their website as follows:
A Signature is a theme chosen by a school and its surrounding community, to connect classroom instruction with real-world situations and workforce-relevant skills.
A Signature brings together educators with local business and community leaders to make classroom instruction relevant, interesting, and challenging for students with opportunities that connect to the 21st century workplace.
I was extremely optimistic as I started. With all of these world-class, cyber-related government agencies and government contractors in the county, I knew that one of the schools would have a Cybersecurity Signature. Here is a list of the Signature Programs:
- Annapolis High School: Change Engineering
- Arundel High School: Community Development and Global Citizenship
- Broadneck High School: Environmental Literacy
- Chesapeake High School: Information Management
- Glen Burnie High School: Public Service
- Meade High School: Homeland Security
- North County HS: International Trade, Transportation, and Tourism
- Northeast High School: Human Performance
- Old Mill High School: International Economics and Finance
- Severna Park High School: Business, Innovation, and Leadership
- South River High School: Global Communications and Public Affairs
- Southern High School: Design–Preservation and Innovation
I first contacted a nearby school whose Signature was IM. I’m in luck, right? I called and set up a meeting and took a team of my colleagues to meet the teachers. I told them I was interested in starting Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics clubs in local high schools. I had been told not to propose curriculum because that would be too hard. Clubs would be the best way to introduce cyber. The teachers just looked at one another.
I continued that we were willing to provide retired digital forensics workstations to them at no cost. Still no response. These workstations cost us over $7,000 each and were replaced every three years to introduce the newest technologies. These were still world-class systems. I told them that I had also worked out a deal with one of the major digital forensics software tool companies and they were willing to provide free software and free online training with manuals. The teachers finally responded by saying they had no clue about cybersecurity nor digital forensics, so they weren’t interested.
Here we are, literally in the Cybersecurity Capital of the world, and they weren’t willing to accept our free offer. Unfortunately, this is what I found at all public secondary schools.
I coach JV baseball for Meade HS. Their Signature theme at Meade is Homeland Security. No cyber there. I have had several of my players come to me and ask where they can start learning about cybersecurity and digital forensics and unfortunately our school systems have nothing to offer.
We need to start providing cybersecurity instruction and resources at the primary level. Today, you have to wait until college to find courses.
So, Secretary DeVos and Mayor Giuliani, as you start your new jobs, please consider cybersecurity and digital forensics as topics that should be taught because they affect each and every student and their parents today.
Please look around in your local jurisdiction and see what your public school systems are teaching relative to cybersecurity and digital forensics. I believe our school systems should be teaching relevant topics that affect everyone and prepare kids for good paying jobs that are critical to our nation’s economic and national security.
What do you think?
Jim Christy is VP of Investigations and Digital Forensics at Cymmetria. Jim retired from the U.S. government in 2013, ending a career investigating computer crimes and running digital forensics labs that began in 1986 at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
Jim can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connect with Jim on Twitter: @jimchristyusdfc