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Cybersecurity Education

Guest Blogger: Ron Pike, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Computer Information Systems, Cal Poly Pomona

There is a debate on the appropriate age to start teaching cybersecurity, with mainstream opinions ranging from the 5th grade to the freshman year of college. I suggest the appropriate time to start is pre-kindergarten. I believe this because I believe any ICT (Information and Computing Technologies) training is cybersecurity training. Cybersecurity professionals who learn to write policies and manage departments without an underlying rich ICT skill set is unable to manage changes and crises that come along.

If we take for granted that all children should be taught ICT as basic life skills then we’re well on our way to training the next generation of cybersecurity experts. ICT skills will help students in a general pursuit of STEM education as ICT skills better prepare students to be competent and independent learners. Some of these students will be drawn to a career in cybersecurity. The appropriate age for specific cybersecurity training that includes Internet safety and good cyber hygiene should start immediately. More advanced cybersecurity training (attacking and defending systems) likely needs to wait until approximately sixteen years old when students are part of a social community that espouses and promotes ethical behavior and students are able to correctly identify the ethical frameworks that can guide their actions.

Adults entering the cybersecurity field need to first identify the area within the IT discipline in which they want to work, and gain expertise and technical certifications in the field. As the related underlying IT skills develop, then these individuals can add expertise in cybersecurity. Just like the kindergarteners though, the most important step is joining a community of professionals that espouses and promotes the ethical practice of cybersecurity. There are many organizations to choose from; the trick is to join a few of them right away and start learning.

Ron Pike spent seventeen years as a network professional, his career moved from installing and designing networks to project and department management positions in the networking and network security fields. During this time Ron installed and managed systems in the aerospace, financial, healthcare, high tech, and higher education industries. While working in higher education he started teaching part time and ended up going back to school, earning a Ph.D. in Information Systems, and switching careers to become a professor of Computer Information Systems at Cal Poly Pomona. Ron teaches computer networking and information security in addition to serving as the Executive Director of the Center for Information Assurance at Cal Poly Pomona and focuses his teaching and research on building a new generation of cybersecurity professionals.

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