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Students learning more about growing cyber security field

The topic of cyber security has become a part of our national headlines. Terms such as WikiLeaks, hackers and leaked emails have become part of America’s lexicon. Former President Barack Obama said, “cyber threats are one of the most serious economic national security challenges that we face as a nation.”

The increasing threat of cyber-attacks has created a huge demand for security professionals. However, few possess the required skillset to meet the demands of the position. Forbes reports that the computer security industry is struggling to fill the estimated 1 million open cyber security positions worldwide.

Preparing students for their future in a technology rich world is a critical component of Marshalltown Community School District’s core values. For the past 10 years, Susan Fritzell has organized various extracurricular clubs relating to information technology at Marshalltown High School including this year’s Cyber Defense Club (CDC).

“With the rise of technology in our lives my students wanted to learn more, and our regular curriculum wasn’t able to keep up with their interests. They wanted to learn about Cyber-Defense,” said Fritzell.

The CDC meets on a weekly basis to discuss various topics related to cyber security. Exploring the inner workings of the Linux operating system or discussing SQL injection attacks are all common topics for the club.

CDC members hone their security skills in a safe manner by leveraging a virtualized computing environment. This environment allows students to implement best security configuration practices as well as test their classmates’ systems for security holes without disturbing the school’s network.

“Virtualization has reshaped the IT world in the past few years and continues to blur the line between hardware and software capabilities,” said Adam Kithcart, a 12-year technology security professional and parent volunteer of the club.

MCSD’s Cyber Defense Club intends to compete in the Hyperstream IT Olympics at Iowa State University this year. During this competition, Marshalltown students will be tasked with securing a technology infrastructure from the cyber-attacks of ISU students.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to gain some real world IT experience”, according to Mark Krukow, MCSD’s Network and Security Specialist and volunteer of the club.

Participants of the event have gone on to find employment at several high profile companies such as Boeing, Microsoft, Lockheed-Martin, Google, Facebook and Amazon. This year’s competition takes place at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, April 21-22.

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Josh Wesley is director of technology with the Marshalltown Community School District.