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U.S. Cyber Challenge: Finding the nation’s future cyber heroes

Renee McLaughlin

When people think of summer vacation, many think of sunny beaches, reading a book under a shade tree or hitting the road for a new adventure. For more than 200 individuals, however, part of their summer vacation this year will be spent learning how to defend computer systems from attack, performing pen testing on Web apps, studying computer forensics and perhaps most importantly, participating in computer ethics discussions. 

All of this takes place during five separate week-long cyber security “boot camps” being held across the country this July and August. The 2011 Cyber Camps are coordinated by the U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) and are designed to provide attendees with intensive training and other opportunities to enhance their skills and become the nation’s next generation of cyber security professionals.

The camps take place at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA; the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex, MD; the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Richmond, VA; and Delaware Technical and Community College, Dover, DE.   

Attendees to the invitation-only camps were selected based in part on their scores from Cyber Quests, an online competition offered through the U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) in April that drew more than 800 participants from approximately 400 schools nationwide. Cyber Camp invitations were also extended to individuals who demonstrated proficiency in other U.S. Cyber Challenge competitions, such as the Cyber Foundations, CyberPatriot, NetWars, and the DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge.

Participants in four of the camps range from undergraduates and graduate students, to working professionals looking to enhance their existing skills or transition into the cyber security and technology fields. Participants in the Maryland camp are high school students.

The camp curriculum includes in-depth workshops on a range of topics taught by college faculty and industry experts. A career fair will be conducted to provide attendees the opportunity to engage with major technology companies and government agencies for internship and employment opportunities. The week will be capped off by a virtual “capture the flag” competition and awards ceremony on the last day, with scholarships being provided to the winning “capture the flag” team.

The need for skilled cyber security practitioners, researchers and mentors has never been more critical, as the volume and complexity of cyber attacks, vulnerabilities and online scams continue to escalate. Industry experts agree on the importance of recruiting and retaining individuals capable of preventing, detecting and responding to attacks on our information systems and overall digital infrastructure.

The Cyber Camps are part of several initiatives underway through USCC, a division of the not-for-profit Center for Internet Security. USCC conducts competitions and camps that enable individuals to develop their skills, gain access to advanced training and achieve recognition with scholarships, internships and jobs. USCC’s goal is to find 10,000 of America's best and brightest to fill the ranks of cyber security professionals, where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation.

Today’s best and brightest Cyber Challenge competitors can be tomorrow’s cyber defenders, helping to protect our country’s critical assets from cyber risks. I encourage everyone to learn more about this critical initiative and how you can become involved. Visit us at

Renée N. McLaughlin is chair of U.S. Cyber Challenge. McLaughlin can be reached at:

[email protected]


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