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The Youth Are the Digital Future

Over the past few decades, interactions increasingly happen on online resources. Social security numbers, passwords, financial information, and more get stored on digital devices. These vulnerabilities need protection, so the youth must be prepared with how to protect: they need to know cybersecurity.

In the past, security required the supply of tools and means dedicated to physical safety. Society classified criminals as thieves, trespassers, and others inflicting in-person harm. Now, there’s a well-known addition to the lawbreaker list: hackers. With the surge of technology usage, online safety holds a highly ranked importance in the world today. As the leading force of the future, the youth now need to know more than physical self-defense to be properly protected, they need to know cybersecurity. For the past two weeks, Associate Professors Geoffrey Wright and Justin Giboney have helped teach them that.

At the boys and girls cybersecurity camps, youth ages 13-18 learn the basics of online safety, encryption, and other technological skills. The boys camp ran from Monday, July 19 to Friday, July 2, while the next week it transitioned to the girls camp, running from Monday, July 26 to Tuesday, July 30. Thanks to help from Sandia National Laboratories and an awarded National Security Agency GenCyber Grant that allowed for an expansion of one camp into a teacher camp and two student camps, not only do the kids spend a fun week expanding their knowledge of the online world, but they get to do it for free.

Both camps covered the same course material and featured the same keynote speakers. Each day, participants worked on individual projects and engaged in subjects such as python programming, networking, and cryptography, many of which were taught by BYU students, both hired and volunteered. Kylie Johnson, assisting with camp administration and a sophomore majoring in information technology, said the kids were “having fun” participating in the different activities and gaining a more serious perspective of their own security.

Not only did the kids explore within digital devices, but they also created Ethernet cables (pictured above), breadboards, and Raspberry Pi devices.
Photo by Abi Falin

Woven throughout the learning segments, campers also engaged in various competitions, including a well-known security themed challenge called Capture the Flag (CTF). During CTF, students reviewed numerous questions and used their cyber knowledge to find the answers. After finding the correct answer, the system rewarded the competitor with a flag. At the end of the camp week, participants received awards based on their standing in the multiple challenges, as well as their group performance during the daily activities.

Overall, by exposing the students to new content and ideas, each activity and lesson aimed to develop the technological literacy of the youth. Wright said, "It’s not just about learning, it’s about realizing how interconnected and interdependent technologies are and, to do that in a meaningful way, we’ve created lessons and activities that are fun and educational.” As their online awareness develops, not only will the campers defend themselves more capably against cyber attacks, but they will also conduct themselves more appropriately when inside the digital world.

Participant Brinley Hancock and her younger sister attended the girls cybersecurity camp for the first time, before Hancock begins her studies at BYU this fall. Although she has yet to decide on a major, both Hancock and her sister thoroughly enjoyed their time exploring the depths of cybersecurity.

“It’s been pretty fun,” Hancock excitedly stated. “[My sister’s] not very interested in this type of stuff, but she’s coming because I came and … she’s finding things that are interesting as well. So, take advantage of the opportunities that come up, especially if they’re free!”