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A codemaker or a codebreaker?

Teens learn to be both in workshop hosted by IU cybersecurity experts and WonderLab.

IU cybersecurity experts teamed up with WonderLab for the second year in a row to conduct a virtual, five-day workshop for teens, “Codemakers and Codebreakers: Cyber Security Workshop.” Twenty high school and middle school students joined the cybercamp June 21-25 from five states, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky.

In preparation for the workshop, students used IU’s Jetstream to set up virtual machines, giving the teens cloud-based and on-demand remote desktops and a consistent platform for everyone. “The Jetstream remote desktops also allowed us to try more risky exercises that we avoided before because we didn't want to accidentally ruin the student's computers,” explained Mark Krenz, chief security analyst for IU’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR).

I think cybersecurity can be effectively taught to children this age and that it is beneficial and fun for them.

Mark Krenz

The Data Center tour was a highlight of the camp experience. Though it was a virtual tour, there were some advantages. “Students were able to take the experience with them in the form of videos, whereas, the in-person tour is a one-shot deal,” added Krenz.

Students learned more than 200 technical terms during the camp and participated in 40 different activities related to IT and cybersecurity. For many, this was their first time to use Linux, the command line, virtual machines, networking, browser plugins, viewing website source code, running programs as an administrator, installing software, seeing a data center, and much more.

The teens learned from seasoned cybersecurity professionals who developed their own content for the camp and shared their real-world experience. Nine senior IU UITS staff members presented along with an instructor from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois.

“The content is from a local subject expert,” said Mark Krenz. “When they learn about networking, they are learning about it from one of IU's top networking people. When they learn about Jetstream, they are learning from the architect of it. When they learn about data forensics, they are learning about it from someone who worked in a digital crime lab. These examples distinguish our camp from other cybersecurity camps.”

Among those who contributed their expertise:

  • Kay Avila, from NCSA and part of Trusted CI, presented on website cookies and online tracking. The first web browser was developed at NCSA in the early 90s, which connected with the students.
  • Keith Lehigh, IU’s chief information security officer, shared about networking security.
  • George Turner, the chief systems architect at UITS, prepared a presentation on how to use Jetstream. Ishan Abhinit assisted in setting up and securing the Jetstream training accounts.
  • Instructors from CACR included Susan Sons, Mark Krenz, Will Drake, Emily Adams, Mike Stanfield, and Anurag Shankar.
  • CACR education specialist Tom Edelberg provided advice on how to improve recognition and retention of the advanced content provided during the camp.
  • Nathan Heald, who ran the lockpicking session, came up with a way to demonstrate lockpicking over Zoom. He knew it was a success when the students paid attention to his content instead of what they usually do, trying to pick the locks while he presents.
  • WonderLab’s Jessica McKinney helped manage the virtual room and provided assistance throughout the camp week.

“Based on the accuracy of the responses in assessment quizzes, enthusiasm, questions asked, and comments made during this camp, I think cybersecurity can be effectively taught to children this age and that it is beneficial and fun for them,” Krenz concluded.