Computer-savvy teens are putting down their game controllers — at least temporarily — for code writing and virus-sweeping. Call it “Red Dawn: Part Deux: Teen Cyber-Commandos.”
At events like the CyberLympics, CyberPatriot contest or just-announced “Toaster Wars,” sponsored by the National Security Agency, high school geek squads are competing to see who does the best job at preventing unauthorized computer intrusions.
This growing interest in cyberdefense comes at a time when the Pentagon officials are warning against damaging computer attacks from China and other nations, while stoking concerns that the United States education system hasn’t trained enough cyber-warriors to protect either military or civilian computer systems.
Utilities, power companies, tech firms, banks, Congress, universities and media organizations, all have faced suspected Chinese attacks in recent months.
“The threat has evolved so quickly,” said Diane Miller, Northrop Grumman’s director of information security and cyber initiatives. “It really has created a sense of urgency.”
The Pentagon and its defense contractors are behind these contests, which are designed to recruit kids to future careers in cyberdefense and IT security. The CyberPatriot contest, which is sponsored by the Air Force Association, has grown from eight high school squads in 2009 to more than 1,200 this year.