FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. -- Four technical Soldiers assigned to the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Defensive Cyber Operations Element (DCOE) trained more than 50 high school students and educators from the Agora Cyber Charter School during a virtual “Wi-Fighter Cyber Challenge” exercise Jan. 4-8.
During the event, the students learned hands-on practical skills with the goal of sparking a new interest or accelerating their current understanding of key technologies through real-world exercises and challenges like utilizing common system misconfigurations to elevate privileges, cryptography and encryption, and information obfuscation.
These skills are taught through configuring the Raspberry Pi or Arduino single-board computing platforms. Participating students are provided with hardware, software and training materials that they can keep
This exercise was performed over the course of a week and was divided into four 1-hour sessions facilitated by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy Marroncelli. During the initial sessions, students were led through a number of preparation and training activities.
The next sessions allowed the students to use what they learned by participating in the “Wi-Fighter Cyber Challenge” exercise. This exercise was purpose-built internally by the cyber team to provide students with a mechanism to safely practice foundational cybersecurity skills.
The DCOE is cultivating the next generation of technology-inspired leaders by actively partnering the element's technical experts with secondary and collegiate educators to facilitate deeply engaging STEM exercises. To date, the team has engaged over 50 organizations and inspired nearly 400 students – all while receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback, said Capt. Sean Smith, Deputy Cyber Team Chief of the Defensive Cyber Operations Element.
“Our team recognizes that we must not be reactive to cybersecurity issues," said Smith, who works in IIoT smart manufacturing technology in his civilian capacity. "Although we are extremely flexible and can quickly respond, we also take strategic forward-looking measures to prevent cyberattacks. One of these measures is to train and cultivate the next generation of cyber leaders in our community. Through partnerships with educators, we bring our team’s deep understanding of technology into the classroom and expose students to the valuable skills required by today’s technology and cybersecurity practitioners. These students will all be our nation’s future cyber defenders and hopefully some will join us directly by putting on the uniform."
Anyone interested in cyber defense should speak with their recruiter or retention NCO about getting into a technical career field.
Since 2016, the Pa. Guard cyber branch has partnered with the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security and expanded to working with the private sector, colleges and universities, and a range of agencies at the local, state and federal levels.