The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a Cyber Security Competitions Workshop on Thursday, where it invited participants from national cybersecurity competitions to help promote cyber education.

Chase Lucas, a 17-year-old from Ocala, Fla., attended the event after his team won the cyber capture-the-flag competition at U.S. Cyber Challenge summer camp.

“It gave me a lot of push – a lot of drive,” Lucas said, in an interview with MeriTalk.

Lucas enjoyed listening to Alex Levinson, information security specialist at Uber and featured speaker at the workshop. Levinson spoke about the ever-changing qualities of the cyber security industry and the need for technology professionals to be constantly aware of changes.

“[Levinson] said, you can’t just be an employee, you have to be a practitioner,” Lucas recounted.

The workshop encouraged Lucas to think about defensive methods of cybersecurity, although Lucas had already honed his cybersecurity skills in offensive settings.

Lucas has attended cybersecurity camp for the past three summers. This year, he decided to enter the nationwide competition to qualify for U.S. Cyber Challenge summer camp.

The competition involved 2,000 participants online, according to Lucas. Contestants were shown an intrusion and competed to be the first to stop the attack. A scoreboard tracked Lucas’ progress against his opponents.

Once at camp, Lucas learned from different instructors who were involved in the cybersecurity industry about various software. He believes the skills he learned will help him in the future.

“There’s so many threats to our infrastructure and intellectual property,” Lucas said. “Our next war will be decided in cyber space.”

Although the pay is less than the private sector, Lucas aspires to work for the Federal government or military to combat adversaries in the digital sphere.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, money is great but I want to do something worthwhile; something that I’ll be remembered for,” Lucas said.

Lucas was encouraged by the OSTP workshop, which included two organizations that focused on teenagers, but he believes that the United States can be doing more to get students interested by incorporating cybersecurity into school curricula.

“We need to start reaching teenagers and young adults at a younger age,” Lucas said.

Wendy Edwards, from Urbana, Ill., who also attended the OSTP event, became interested in cybersecurity as an adult, when she went to U.S. Cyber Challenge summer camp, trying to strengthen her skills as a programmer.

“It’s very impressive to see what other people are doing and how much time and effort people are putting into their work,” Edwards said.

Edwards was also interested in Levinson’s speech because he encouraged the audience to continue working on cybersecurity projects in their free time, even if their careers didn’t specifically focus on that field.

Edwards said that competing in cyber challenges, like cyber capture-the-flag, brought her outside of her comfort zone but she was able to use tools that could help her when she’s programming.

“Security is something you need to think about with developing software,” Edwards said.

At camp they learned how to conduct penetration testing, to attempt to hack into software in order to find any holes that needed to be fixed.

Edwards also said she was encouraged by the number of female campers who attended the U.S. Cyber Challenge.

“Given the nation’s cybersecurity workforce needs, we cannot afford to miss out on any dimension of the talent pool,” wrote Tim Polk, assistant director for cybersecurity at the OSTP, in a blog post. “Competitions give students from all geographic locations and walks of life opportunities for awareness about cybersecurity as a vocation and an introduction to the subject matter.”

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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.