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Teen girls encouraged to learn cyber security skills

Teen girls in Mississippi are being encouraged to learn cyber security skills through the Girls Go Cyberstart program.

The state of Mississippi is partnering with the SANS Institute to participate in the cyber security competition, according to a press release from the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security. The goal of the competition is to address the shortage of cyber security experts in the U.S. by encouraging high school girls to learn about the field, according to the site.

Jenny Williams, Director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security, said the field of cyber security changes quickly, so keeping people trained in that area is a continual challenge.

“It’s good to bring the fresh perspective from the kids that may be using these types of media as opposed to the rest of us that are learning it,” Williams said. “They grow right into it by virtue of having a cellphone and access to the Internet everywhere they go.”

The competition is free and open to girls who are at least 13-years-old and enrolled in grades 9 through 12 at a public, private or home school program, according to the Girls Go Cyberstart website.

The online program is designed to introduce girls to cyber security, according to the site.

“The main thing it does is get them interested in the area of cyber security,” said Williams. “As we know, it’s continually growing and there are so many facets of the cyber security arena. So when they participate they actually get into things like cryptography, password cracking, digital forensics and open source intelligence.”

To register for the program, girls need to be in a club that has an adult advisor. Any school or youth organization can start a club to become part of this program, the site states. Advisors can register on the website.

So far, 11 Mississippi girls at seven schools are registered for the program, according to the site.

The program includes three phases: an assessment that includes realistic scenarios from the cyber security field, a game where students solve digital crimes, and a competition where top clubs in each state can choose four girls to compete against schools from other states in a game of capture the flag.

Participating in the assessment and scoring well in the game can earn students $50 to $400 and earn their schools $100 to $1,000.

To participate, students will need access to a computer, reliable Internet and a Chrome or Firefox browser, the site states.

The assessment is open from Jan. 13 to Jan. 31, the game is open from Feb. 10 to April 17 and the competition will run April 23 through 24.