Cybersecurity Night shares what lurks behind the scenes of the internet
Here’s an alarming statistic: Hackers attack a computer every 39 seconds in the United States.
While numerous programs exist to protect personal data, nefarious hackers are often one step ahead. Thankfully, there is an entire industry of cybersecurity professionals whose job is to develop safeguards and thwart attacks before they happen.
Port Chester High School is doing its part to prepare students to enter this burgeoning industry. Beginning next year, the computer science department will offer an Introduction to Cybersecurity class.
“We are so excited to be offering a cybersecurity class next year,” said computer science teacher Virginia Peterson. The class will be added to the school’s five-year old computer science program.
As a preview, she and math teacher Carlos Gomez, hosted “Cybersecurity Night” on March 2. The virtual event welcomed parents, students and school administrators for an interactive evening into the oft dark world of cybersecurity.
“We are always looking for ways to spread wealth and knowledge,” Mr. Gomez said, adding that he hopes this event will be the first in an upcoming series of computer science-related evenings.
The night began with a brief video that detailed what hacking and cybersecurity are and why their importance is so critical. “Protecting yourself is an important reason to know about cybersecurity,” Ms. Peterson said.
She shared with participants news headlines where hackers had attempted, sometimes successfully, to interfere with a person’s or company’s computer network to mine for data. Among them was a recent attempt to hack into the water supply system of a small Florida city to increase its amount of sodium hydroxide, which could have made people ill. Another story discussed hacking into a pharmacy’s database where clients’ personal data was stolen.
“Hacking is everywhere,” Ms. Peterson said, “because computers are everywhere.”
Data indicates that the cybersecurity field is growing fast, more than twice the rate of other computer-related jobs.
During “Cybersecurity Night,” another video was shown, highlighting the topics of cybersecurity and crime. It explained the different means that hackers use in their attempts to retrieve data, including sending a virus, phishing schemes and Distributed Denial of Service.
Whether a person is hacked often comes down to human error – at least 90% of hacks are completed by a computer user clicking on a bad link or inadvertently spreading a virus.
Trying to trace the hacker or weed out any resulting issues are difficult and take a great deal of old-fashioned sleuthing. During the event, participants had an opportunity to work on an investigation to find a hacker. They were given a link to play a game where each participant was part of the “White Hat Hackers,” who were working against the “Black Hat Hackers.”
“It’s a game that lets you explore what it is like to be a cybersecurity professional,” Ms. Peterson said.
During the game, participants were shown several social media posts that contained clues about who the hacker might be. They had to answer questions based on the information they were given. When they answered correctly, they were given a code that unlocked the next clue. For example, one questions asked how old the person in the post was. While the post never mentioned their age, it did refer to “1986,” suggesting their birth year. From there, participants determined the person’s age.
“I hope you learned a little bit about cybersecurity tonight,” Mr. Gomez said as the evening concluded.
“It’s encouraging to see a number of people who are out tonight showing an interest in cybersecurity,” added PCHS Principal Luke Sotherden.