Secure Decisions, a division of Applied Visions, Inc. and an industry leader in cybersecurity research, has received an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) under the Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace: Education (SaTC: EDU) Program. One of only ten projects funded in 2018 under this highly competitive program from NSF, the CyberMiSTS (Curriculum to Broaden Participation in Cybersecurity for Middle School Teachers and Students) project aims to provide middle school Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers with knowledge, skills, and tools they need to develop a cybersecurity curriculum that actively engages their students and exposes them to cybersecurity concepts and careers. At the core of the CyberMiSTS program is a two-week workshop for CTE teachers, where they learn from cybersecurity researchers, and develop and share their own course materials. The resulting cybersecurity curriculum, complete with resources for training CTE teachers, can be widely disseminated.
In 2018, the U.S. employed nearly 716,000 people in cybersecurity positions, with approximately 314,000 cybersecurity job openings, according to Cyberseek.org, and the demand for a trained cybersecurity workforce is generally expected to grow over the next decade. Getting young people interested in cybersecurity careers requires reaching down into the middle schools: studies show that early exposure and engagement increase the chances that young people will seek out the courses and extra-curricular activities that will help them to prepare for cybersecurity careers.
Efforts to reach down into middle schools reveal an urgent need to fill the educator pipeline for cybersecurity: middle school teachers often don’t have the knowledge or resources to teach cybersecurity. “At conferences and webinars, I repeatedly hear K12 educators asking for curriculum that includes all the necessary background and preparatory materials for the teacher, as well as interactive learning and exploratory activities for the students that don’t require software to be installed on school computing devices,” says Laurin Buchanan, Principal Investigator at Secure Decisions for CyberMiSTS.
The CyberMiSTS program will help bring this kind of cybersecurity curriculum to middle school students as part of their Career and Technology Education (CTE) classes. New York State requires all middle school students to take 1.75 units of coursework in CTE, and according to the Association of Career and Technical Educators, 94% of secondary school students take CTE courses nationwide. The curriculum to be developed as part of the CyberMiSTS program seeks to capture the interest of a broad and diverse group students—especially those who are not already interested in math and/or science—by showing how poor cybersecurity can impact industries such as healthcare, agriculture, transportation, entertainment, and hospitality, as well as the wide range of skills and roles that are needed to develop and maintain a more secure future.
“CyberMiSTS will give teachers what they need to inspire their students to consider careers in cybersecurity — waiting until college, or even high school, to talk about cybersecurity careers is often too late to capture some of this untapped talent for the cybersecurity workforce,” Ms. Buchanan stated. “The CyberMiSTS curriculum will illustrate broader impacts of cybersecurity issues that affect everyone, and show career pathways, including for students who are more interested in creative and social issues than technology.”
Leveraging lessons learned in a previous NSF SaTC: EDU award (BIGSCE, NSF Award Abstract #1623131), CyberMiSTS will enable the teachers to customize their cybersecurity lessons with culturally relevant stories, by using Comic-BEE software to develop and customize a branching web comic about cybersecurity. Comic-BEE was developed by Secure Decisions, based on research sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, Cyber Security Division (DHS S&T/CSD). Teachers may choose to use Comic-BEE in their classrooms: when students create their own stories, the curriculum is more likely to engage students from all backgrounds.
The CyberMiSTS award (NSF Award Abstract #1821757) began in September of 2018 and is scheduled to end August 31, 2020. Secure Decisions is working in collaboration with a team at Stony Brook University, including Dr. Lori Scarlatos, an Associate Professor of Educational Technology, Department of Technology & Society, College of Engineering & Applied Sciences.
About Secure Decisions:
Secure Decisions was created as a division of Applied Visions, Inc. to conduct R&D and develop innovative technologies in cyber security including network defense, infrastructure protection, application security, intelligence analysis, and data visualization. Secure Decisions develops tools for decision-makers to analyze large amounts of complex data, and to provide cutting-edge security measures to protect their proprietary information. Many of their products were developed under contract from federal and state governments or governmental agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and DARPA. In 2015, Secure Decisions’ application security R&D led to the development of a new application vulnerability correlation and management system, which is now commercially available through a spin-out company called Code Dx, Inc.