#NICEK12: Young Women Are Making Cyber Waves

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In a pre-conference workshop, 2018 NICE K12 Cybersecuirty Education Conference sponsor IBM offered #CyberDay4Girls, in which girls in 6th–9th grade met at Sam Houston High School to learn about protecting their online identity and the internet of things and to meet female role models studying and working in cybersecurity. 

Part of the goal is shifting the perspective and teaching girls to be brave, not perfect, said Kyla Guru, a high school junior from Illinois and founder of Bits N’ Bytes Cybesecurity Education (BNBCE) in her keynote address.

Guru first thanked the audience for involving her in the dialogue about what she called our "state of cyber-insecurity." “What is the current state?” Guru asked. “An expected 1.8 million cybersecurity jobs that will be unfilled by 2022. In 2017, the education sector alone accounted for 13% of breaches, which amounts to the compromise of around 32 million records. In addition, we are expected to lose $8 million by 2022.”

Her goal is to make sure that we all understand the monetary loss that will happen because of cyber-attacks so that rather than lose that money, we can try to save that money for future generations to invest in saving the future.

“We are making waves,” Guru said, “and that calls for some sort of applause. We need some recognition for the progress we have made so that we can get excited about the work that still needs to be done.”

In explaining her vision, Guru explained why she came to create BNBCE. The idea came to her when thinking about the requirement that she and her fellow students had to sign the student science lab safety contract every year. After seven years, she had the contract memorized.  

“I know that after you get chemicals in your eyes, you have to wash your eyes out for 20 minutes at the wash station. Those have been made second nature because of the emphasis that teachers have put on it. So I started to think, ‘What if we could make something like this for cybersecurity?’ because that is the power of education.”

Recognizing that the digital internet is the new playground for young people, Guru said she realized that her peers didn’t have security as a second nature to them. “I set out to create a five-minute animated video for my former elementary school, but after I made the video, I realized that the problem couldn’t be solved by one video sent to one school down the street from my house. This mission was so much bigger than this one school.”

From there, Guru created the national nonprofit that started with youth. Why? “It is incredible impressive and slightly concerning how much we use technology. Also, young people are going to build technology. Shouldn’t they know how to deal with and manage the situations that will come along with that technology?” she said.

In the past 24 months, the nonprofit has grown to include 26 partners. BNBCE has written 40 articles on its blog and hosted more than 35 workshops, amounting to an outreach that has connected with 15,722 students.

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