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Facebook Cybersecurity University Graduates US Veterans

Though it’s not quite graduation season, 33 US military veterans celebrated the completion of their 12-week course and became the first class to graduate from Facebook Cybersecurity University for Veterans on Saturday, April 21.

Narrowing the cybersecurity skills gap demands that organizations get a little creative about how they train and recruit. That’s why Facebook partnered with CodePath.org and more than 200 students and professors across nine universities and colleges.

While Facebook tries to regain user trust, it is training veterans across every military branch to become defenders of the digital world. The 33 participants, all of whom had to have some background in IT or computer science, embarked on a cyber boot camp of sorts.

Over the course of the 12 weeks, the program focused on delivering the fundamentals of web application security. The veterans applied that foundational knowledge to gain a better understanding of offensive and defensive skills through a hands-on approach.

“They learned the basics of cybersecurity and common vulnerabilities and attacks, and they received hands-on practice in both exploitation techniques and strategies for protecting and hardening applications,” Facebook Security wrote in a post.

They met in Menlo Park, California, where they partook in a variety of sessions and labs as they reviewed broader security topics through videos and projects. Open source competitions allowed Facebook to bring the students closer to the real-world experiences of cyber-risk and -defense.

One of the few women in the program, Courtney Kivernagel, told KQED that the program revealed a grit and tenacity she didn't know she had, not even after six years in the Air Force. “This was harder than basic training in some aspects, just because some of the problems they threw out at you. [They were like,] 'Into the deep end, here you go,'” Kivernagel said.

The graduation celebration comes at an optimal time for Facebook and the industry at large. The commitment to hiring thousands of new security professionals is a challenge for enterprises around the globe, particularly when only 137 schools in the US offer information security courses.

Providing these types of nontraditional learning opportunities opens the door for a more varied workforce to enter into the cybersecurity field. The social network has the ability to tap into a wider pool of candidates, and veterans are ideal candidates to fill the pipelines.

“We’re really proud of how this program shaped up, and even more so of the veterans who committed to improving their expertise. The security industry needs to be more reflective of the people we aim to protect, and we want to help improve the number of security professionals working to help defend people online,” said Stephanie Siteman, information security program manager at Facebook.

Students, veterans or professors who wants to learn more about the opportunities Facebook is offering for education and diversity in cybersecurity can send an email to infosecpartnership@fb.com.

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