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Training Cyber Warriors in Virginia

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The number of devices that are now connected to the Internet far exceeds the number of people on the planet.  And as Cyberspace grows, so do the legions of hackers looking for ways to break in.  Right now, it’s an A-symmetrical cyber war.  But as Robbie Harris reports, Virginia’s Governor has launched a plan to change that by training a new workforce for the growing field of cyber security.

  

Governor Terry McAuliffe: “I want us to be the capital of the world for cyber. Our problem is, we’re not filling the high paying jobs. I have 17,000 cyber jobs right now in Virginia. Starting pay – parents $88,000.”

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is touting this high pay for an expensive job, defending against cyber attacks. The plan is for colleges and universities to prepare a small army of students from all over Virginia to enter the cyber security force.

David Raymond:  “Where students, wherever they are around the Commonwealth, who are taking cyber security courses at Virginia public institutions can do labs and exercises, capture the flag exercises and various sorts of cyber security exercises..."

David Raymond teaches cyber security at Virginia Tech, which is coordinating the effort to create a cloud based curriculum that will look like kind of cyber war game.

“To get some hands on experience with the things they’re learning in the classroom and also to develop their skills in an environment that is completely isolated where they’re not doing things on the open internet where they can potentially cause some problems.”

They call this project the Virginia Cyber Range, like a ‘shooting range’ without the bullets. Darrell Parson teaches Cyber security at Radford University.

“So what we want to be able to do inside the cyber range is help students learn how to identify vulnerabilities and how to respond and protect those vulnerabilities.”

It’s not just for the famous hacks we’ve been hearing about with numbing regularity, credit card companies, retailers, health insurance providers and much more. And it’s not just those things that are vulnerable; it's the Internet of things where every device is potentially hack-able.

“The challenge becomes, we think, 'oh this is really cool I can do all this stuff remotely,' 'oh I forgot to record the VT football game, I can go into my app and do it,' so there’s a lot of convenience to it but what we’re wanting to help everyone understand is that all that convenience comes at a risk.”

Lesson one comes from the early days of WiFi when people sometimes didn’t password protect their systems and you could get close enough to their server to borrow their service.  So the first assignment is to teach people to how to close those doors, a potential career path right there. Again David Raymond.

“This isn’t a problem that's going to get solve quickly there’ always going to be a need for people… every time you turn around there’s a new digital thing that needs to be protected.”

Clearly, a hands-off arms race is underway and like battles that came before, it’s also an engine for job creation.  Again Darrell Parsons.  

“So what I teach my students is that IT is the enabler or any career that you can name. There is not a career out there that doesn't’ have some level of reliance upon information technology and if they’re reliant upon information technology, then they have vulnerabilities and then there’s the need for cyber security."

The Virginia Cyber range will begin offering access to students taking cyber courses at participating public universities in the new year. The goal is to include high schools and some day start children’s cyber education as early as kindergarten.

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