Terms like “advanced persistent threat” and “denial of service” might sound foreign to you, but these students can tell you exactly what they mean.
About 220 tech-savvy teens from 14 high schools across Maryland came to Lockheed Martin’s Gaithersburg campus to talk about cybersecurity. Attendance more than doubled since last year’s conference, which recorded 100 students.
“The enormity of the challenges we face as a country becomes more apparent every day,” Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Sondra Barbour said in her opening remarks. “The future of our company and our country will depend on students like you who are willing to take on the greatest cyber challenges.”
Lockheed Martin’s fourth annual Cyber Security Awareness Day attracted students enrolled in Maryland’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. The company hopes to influence those students to choose careers in cybersecurity.
Two sophomore students from Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, said the event gave them insight on how they can pursue a college education and future career in the cybersecurity field.
“It’s helping me to pick a profession that I want to go into, whether it’s computer sciences, computer programming, cybersecurity or computer engineering,” said Tatiana Nguyen. “I’m thinking about cybersecurity definitely. It’s a great place to be.”
Classmate I’Yanla Brown said she liked that college representatives from institutions like Montgomery College, Capitol College and the University of Maryland were on hand to discuss cybersecurity programs.
“One of my favorite things about it was that they had colleges here, because I’m not really sure what colleges do certain things for technology,” she said. “It taught me a lot of new things about where you can go to study and how you can study it.”
Brown also said she enjoyed learning about hackers and how they breach a network. “Advanced persistent threat,” according to seminar presenter Kyle Slosek, occurs when hackers continually try to break into a network. A “denial of service” attack is where hackers try to bring down a website or system by flooding it with access requests.
A large part of the event was conveying to students that the cybersecurity industry is growing and looking for qualified employees, according to Lee Holcomb, director of cybersecurity for Lockheed Martin.
“Cybersecurity is an area where the demand for graduates in this field is very, very high — much higher than other fields,” he said. “So it’s kind of a compounded opportunity to go after something that’s interesting and get a meaningful job afterwards.”
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown was slated to give a small speech at the conference but canceled at the last minute because of a family emergency.
Montgomery College Professor David A. Hall said that an increasing number of students at the Germantown campus are entering cybersecurity programs.
The college is part of CyberWatch, a group of colleges, businesses and government agencies that work to promote cybersecurity education, according to Hall. The program develops cybersecurity curriculum, programs to challenge students and activities, including an intercollegiate defense competition.
“The competition allows us to compete against other schools in defending networks while professional hackers attack them,” he said.
While the event was heavily focused on cybersecurity, Holcomb said the company hopes students are excited about entering any field of study within science or engineering.
“We’ve built a lot of this stuff that you use every day — cellphones and the Internet — it was all built by our generation,” he said. “I think it’s important for this generation to think about what they are going to bring to society in the future.”