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Cybersecurity: The New K-12 Educational Imperative

We are presenting a series of articles on the topic of cybersecurity as it relates to public institutions. The first article explored the growing threat of cyber attacks at all levels of government, including state and local agencies, state-funded colleges, and K-12 schools. The second article took a deeper dive into the vulnerabilities and increasing attacks specifically targeting K-12 education systems. This final article in the series suggests a path forward to mitigate risks and define the future of our cyber workforce.

In the K-12 educational landscape, it is generally agreed upon that all students should be competent in the 3 R’s upon completion of their primary and secondary education: Reading, WRIting, and aRithmetic. There is a new educational imperative whose importance is beginning to make itself abundantly clear. We agree that reading, writing, and mathematics are fundamental. Cybersecutiry should be, too.

Internet security literacy is no longer an option. On the contrary, it is a societal necessity that is absolutely fundamental to the lives of American people today. If we do not understand how to protect ourselves from a cybersecurity perspective, we will compromise positions with real costs, financially or in terms of opportunity. 

Cybersecurity is a function of life, and it impacts ALL of us. Therefore, it is an everybody problem that requires educational intervention.

Integrating Cybersecurity in K-12 Education

The COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to deliver curricula in new and unprecedented ways. For instance, they received funds and handed out laptops, which was absolutely necessary to meet the educational needs of American students.

School systems did not have the foresight and expertise to implement requisite security requirements on those laptops, and as a result, cyber crime is aggressively on the rise in K-12 education. Security risks existed inherently with such widespread use of mobile devices. Hybrid learning models exacerbated the problem further. The school system cannot control both sides of the network. 

As taxpayers, we are spending tons of money creating these environments for our students, but we are not teaching them how to protect themselves or the networks they are accessing. And this has got to change. 

Cybersecurity can no longer be something that other people worry about. It’s something that every global citizen needs to worry about. The need to protect yourself in cyberspace needs to become innate. The way to accomplish that is to integrate it right into the structure of our K-12 education system.

How to Mitigate this Growing Threat

Three solutions can mitigate this growing threat to our K-12 educational systems. 

  1. Security profiles that address “on campus” and “at home” device use

School systems need to take corrective measures to mitigate the risk of cyber attacks on the school network and the school-issued devices themselves. For example, schools routinely offer in-person, virtual, or hybrid delivery options for students. Each of those different types of student profiles should have different security protocols. 

Laptops would thus be set up with dual login capabilities, and students would learn to sign in using their “on campus” credentials or their “at home” credentials, depending on what network they are accessing. 

Students need sufficiently set up equipment to meet the security requirements that will keep the school and the equipment safe. The tools that OBAN Cyber offers accomplish this with ease, but this is only one part of the solution.

  1. Cybersecurity awareness and education starting in middle school

Students need to gain a comprehensive awareness of cybersecurity to the point that it becomes second nature. But let’s face it; starting these interventions at the collegiate level is misguided. Cyber criminals are targeting online users as young as 9th grade to become conduits of information. Sound scary? It should because it is a fear-worthy situation. 

Our kids spend more time online than ever before. Unfortunately, this introduces more significant risks to the students, the home, the schools, and all the equipment that we are now providing to school systems with our tax dollars.

Our school systems need to begin educating kids on cybersecurity in middle school grades as part of the curriculum. This cannot be a single session add-on or a special presentation made once a calendar year. It needs to be ongoing. 

Budgeting for new programs is always a concern to school systems. The good news is that the current threat level and condition of cybersecurity measures in our educational systems have opened up myriad grant opportunities for school systems to secure funding for this very purpose. OBAN Cyber is exceptionally knowledgeable about the programs available and can help school systems find available grant funding. 

3. Professional training starting in high school 

Some of us attended primary and secondary schools before the proliferation of the internet. And just like today, not all of us decided to seek higher education. To better prepare students who wanted to begin a career right out of high school, the public school system offered classes aimed at preparing them for this track. 

Typing class prepared students for an office job, shop taught skills that could be taken directly into a variety of vocations, and home economics attempted to teach students how to run their own household. There is a massive opportunity for students and society alike to treat cybersecurity education in a similar way. 

A segment of the student population is not interested in going to college. Why not prepare them for a professional career with unlimited potential? There exists a huge disparity between the number of cybersecurity job openings and the number of qualified applicants to fill those positions. We can close that gap by injecting new talent into the federal cyberspace. This will create a promising future for young people and make our nation safer at the same time. A win-win. 

Students that are interested in attending college would be offered the opportunity to continue their cyber security education. Colleges around the country are developing programs in this field which can be fed by these students who have shown interest and aptitude.

OBAN’s Cybersecurity Training for Students

OBAN is part of a coalition that will offer opportunities for 9-12 grade students to join a professional training program to be certified in this highly skilled and on-demand career path. Students with an interest and acumen for this type of education and work will be welcomed into the program.

Upon graduation, these students will be fully certified and ready to work in an industry that desperately needs them. At OBAN, we are on a mission to educate, train, and certify students that can fill these jobs. 

Cyber crime is not only here to stay; it is going to continue to become more elusive, damaging, and prevalent. OBAN can help with the tools, education, and certifications needed to combat this growing risk. To learn more about how OBAN can help your organization, contact us today.