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High School Cybersecurity Competition Opens for Registration

A special competition designed to inspire high school students to consider careers in cybersecurity or related subjects has just opened its registration doors for the next round of contests. CyberPatriot is open to teams of students in high schools, accredited home school programs, and youth defense squadrons. Teams can have between two and five participants and require an adult coach. The entry fee for teams is $375, which provides access to the software that is required, along with participant materials. It also helps defray travel expenses for teams qualifying for the finals.

The program was established by the Air Force Association, a non-profit organization that promotes the Air Force and a strong national defense.

In three preliminary rounds, students learn to defend computer networks from the same kinds of computer threats they'd encounter in real life. Participants compete online to find security flaws in virtual computer systems running Windows or GNU/Linux while keeping computer functions working. Twelve teams that make it through that gauntlet by finding the most vulnerabilities receive all-expenses-paid trips to the national championship, which will take place in March 2013. During that round, finalists will undergo an in-person challenge and compete face to face to defend virtual networks from a professional "aggressor" team intent on breaching the system.

At the same time the Department of Defense will conduct forensics training and testing to give the students a taste of cyber forensics, including crime scene analysis, evidence gathering, and critical thinking.

The latest competition, which ended in March, drew more than a thousand teams from the United States and U.S. schools in Europe and Asia. The top three teams collectively received $54,000 in college scholarships, donated by the Northrop Grumman Foundation.

The registration processes closes at the end of September 2012. Last year's competition was limited to 1,250 teams in each of two divisions, one limited to high schools and home schools, and the other open to those two groups as well as ROTC and Civil Air Patrol teams.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.