Teaching a new generation to become experienced cyber professionals, trained to deal with the latest cyber threats, is critical to ensure the safety of information. Because there is an ever-present threat of cyber criminals who are intent on hacking into systems and causing chaos worldwide, there will always be a need for skilled cybersecurity professionals. And, we know that active learning is one of the best ways to train them, since the National Training Laboratories Institute reported that active learning results in a 75% retention rate, versus 5% using traditional learning methods like lectures.
Since 2008, middle and high school students from the San Diego area have been competing in a cyber challenge, competing for the San Diego Mayor’s Cyber Cup. The competition expanded last year to include the entire Southern California region — the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge, which is backed by Securing Our eCity Foundation, National Defense Industrial Association and National University. This year, Circadence is proud to provide students and mentors the opportunity to use Project Ares, supported by ScaleMatrix. Project Ares is a top-level cybersecurity training, education and assessment platform for cyber students and professionals of all skill levels.
Project Ares gamifies cyber skill training, allowing students to use the platform to learn and practice, then to compete with their peers. The SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge is divided into three phases – a practice phase, a qualifying round, and then finals where the students participate in head-to-head competitions to complete realistic mission scenarios. The practice round began on October 14th, with finals and awards beginning in late March 2018. The schools with the top teams are awarded scholarship funds.
Within the instructor portal provided through Project Ares, trainers can review progress and performance. The automatic, artificial intelligence (AI) powered umpire grades the student’s performance and eliminates the need for instructors to comb through logs to score homework or tests. Game play is recorded and saved for visibility into students’ activity history. These records serve institutions and teams with data on engagement and skills acquisition, and allow for mission playback for play-by-play instructor/student review. These features enhance learning for the student and allow instructors to focus less on assessments and more on training our next generation of cyber professionals.
The SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge finals are scored on five essential skills:
- maintenance of critical services
- removing vulnerabilities and hardening systems
- communicating status and resource requirements
- thwarting and removing hacker activities
- decoding, decrypting and file carving forensic challenges
Allowing students to learn and compete in STEM-related challenges like the SoCal Cyber Cup is an important part of exposing them to the possibilities of a career in cybersecurity or other tech-related professions. Learn more about the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge at their website, or find out how Project Ares is equipping government, enterprise, and academic institutions with the skills necessary to defeat cyber criminals.
*Photos sourced from SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge website.