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Diversifying Pathways in Cybersecurity through the Design of Holistic Competitions

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2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting


California State University, Los Angeles , California

Publication Date

April 4, 2019

Start Date

April 4, 2019

End Date

April 6, 2019

Conference Session

PSW Section Meeting Papers - Disregard start and end time - for online paper access only

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pacific Southwest Section Meeting Paper Submissions

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Paper Authors


John Y Oliver California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Oliver is an assistant professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering and the director of Computer Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. His field of expertise is in computer architecture and system performance analysis with a growing interest in cybersecurity. His teaching activities focus on embedded systems and digital circuit design.

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Cassidy Elwell Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

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Cybersecurity competitions are touted as a good method for getting high school students interested in career paths in cybersecurity fields. From observations of high school cybersecurity competitions, we find that typical high school cybersecurity competitions focus narrowly on computer-technical competencies. A byproduct of these competitions is to create an intimidating atmosphere that rewards young adults who are already proficient in computer IT activities, but a discouraging environment to students who may have burgeoning interests in cybersecurity. Additionally, the skill set needed for cybersecurity professionals is much broader than purely computer-technical skills and include competencies like teamwork, communications skills and critical thinking, none of which are emphasized in typical high school cybersecurity competitions. In this paper, we present a high school cybersecurity competition event called the Digital Forensics Challenge (DFC). The DFC is designed to reward cybersecurity competition teams that have a wider range of competencies than typical cybersecurity competitions and be more accepting of students who may not be singularly focused on the technical aspects of cybersecurity. We describe the elements that were added to emphasize critical thinking, global thinking, teamwork and communications skills. We find that by adding non-technical competencies to the DFC, competitors find that their holistic set of skills are more valued while at the same time competitors also claim that the amount of technical content of the DFC is greater than other cybersecurity competitions.

Oliver, J. Y., & Elwell, C. (2019, April), Diversifying Pathways in Cybersecurity through the Design of Holistic Competitions Paper presented at 2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting, California State University, Los Angeles , California. 10.18260/1-2--31823

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