How to nurture your child’s security genius

Is your child an internet security genius? If cybersecurity is their thing and you think it could be their future livelihood, here’s what you can do to harness that potential for a career that is exciting and financially lucrative.

Sign up for free online courses

Signing up for the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) course is not going to be on the minds of many, if any, teenage students; for a start, you need several years on the job as a security professional before you can qualify for this certification.

Despite this, there are a number of affordable and even free courses which can help your child to test their knowledge and improve their skills.

For example, Coursera offers a number of excellent coding and general IT courses, while FutureLearn hosts Open University’s ‘Introduction to Cyber Security’ MOOC– an excellent introduction into everything from computer worms and trojans to hashing and salting passwords.

You can also take advantage of fun courses that are generally promoted to improve online safety for younger kids. Carnegie Academy, Webonauts Internet Academy, Safety Land, Anti-Phishing Phil and Internet Safety Hangman are some of the most reputable courses around. These may not come to sit on your child’s resume in years to come, but they are still useful training nevertheless.

Read, read and read some more

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There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of free security blogs, with a huge number produced by experienced security vendors.

It is definitely worth getting your child to sign up to some of these, even if it means using a RSS reader to collect all the best ones. Although reading is a great way of learning, your son or daughter might also want to listen to podcasts and videos on these same websites.

Enter competitions and workshops

There are numerous competitions, workshops and even holiday camps for those interested in a career in cybersecurity.

Some of these are more expensive and advanced than others, so might be considered at an older age, but there are others which are useful for young people just starting out. Also, a lot of these competitions are interactive and scenario-based, so much less exciting than a boring paper exam.

The CyberFed website details upcoming competitions in the US, while CyberLympics organises huge team competitions across the globe. Various universities also offer cyber camps. In the US, some of the most notable are the ‘Cybercamp’ at Lowcountry Tech Academy in South Carolina, ‘Cyber Discovery’ at the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center in Louisiana and Computer Science and Creativity at the Maryland State Department of Education in Maryland.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Cyber Security Challenge organises a number of excellent competitions.

Consider internships and apprenticeships

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Internships are a great way into any industry, and this is particularly true of a cybersecurity profession that is crying out for new people due to a worldwide shortage of IT security professionals with the right skills.

Consequentially, both public and private sector organisations are offering opportunities, including the Department of Homeland Defense with its Cybersecurity Internship Program and the FBI with its Cyber Internship Program.

During your child’s allocated week or two, they should learn a huge amount and could pick up some valuable contacts. However, it’s worth making sure they are definitely interested in internships for the right reason – last month Forbes reported that a rogue intern at FireEye was developing his own Android malware and selling it on the dark web.

Get a mentor

Speak to anyone security professional today and most likely they’ll recount at least one mentor who helped them learn in some shape or form.

Equally, from a young person’s perspective, mentors can be really influential – they can act as a sounding board, as a trainer, or even recommend jobs or courses.

Join professional groups

Student memberships to professional member groups are good for two reasons; they are relatively cheap, and they give you access to experts, information, jobs boards and free newsletters.

They’re not that common, so it is worth signing up straight away if you do spot one.

Encourage them early – they’re never too young

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Teaching kids early about the risks online is a good, proactive step and it’s one that can have two benefits. On the one hand, they should take steps to ensure they are safe when browsing the web. And on the other, they may like security so much that it encourages them to pursue it as a future career.

Either way, encouragement goes a long and parents should know that there are no age limits when it comes to security. Indeed, some of the youngest hackers have been as a young as five, finding flaws in some of the world’s most popular software or websites.

Author , ESET

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