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Iowa Turns to Youth to Address Dearth of Cyber Security Experts

Cyber attacks can expose personal information of millions of people or shut down entire organization systems. (Joffi/Pixabay)
Cyber attacks can expose personal information of millions of people or shut down entire organization systems. (Joffi/Pixabay)
August 2, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – The growing number and severity of cyber attacks is prompting state officials to try to identify and train the next cyber workforce from among Iowa high school students.

Iowa has entered a cyber training partnership with the . High school juniors and seniors will be competing against students in six other states for $650,000 in scholarships.

Alan Paller, SANS director of research, said the students will be playing a game called CyberStart, but the importance of the outcome is quite serious.

"The lack of expertise that we're facing right now is enabling attackers to break into organizations with impunity," he said, "and, where they used to just steal data, it's shutting them down."

Paller said the cyber security career field holds great promise for youth because the jobs aren't going to be outsourced and the cyber attackers aren't going to go away. Teens with a strong knowledge of operating systems, programming and networking have a big opportunity to help their state and country, he said.

Paller said the game SANS is utilizing currently is used by adults in the field who have found it's sometimes more valuable than an expert instructor because the problems they're facing are ever-evolving.

"They can't just use rote methods because the bad guys are changing all the time," he said. "So, the game gives them the ability to test and develop their discovery skills."

Paller said the threat of cyber attacks is just as real in Iowa as in any other state. Power systems and hospitals are just a couple of examples of vital resources that are the focus of attackers.

Registration for CyberStart will remain open through Friday at

More information is online at

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA