Hacker alert

MARQUETTE – Students from five different local high schools took part in Northern Michigan University’s first ever Cyber Security Camp, held last week in the Seaborg Math and Science Center on campus.

For three hours a day, Monday through Friday, the students were taken through the beginnings of cyber security, a growing career field in today’s plugged-in world.

Chris Standerford, director of the Seaborg Center, said the 15-hour clinic exposed the students to the basics of hacking and Internet protocols, as well as the ethical and legal implications of hacking.

“We were trying to contrast the people who are hacking to do damage versus the people who are hacking to protect, or fighting hackers,” Standerford. “They talked quite a bit about the ‘white hat hackers’ and the ‘black hat hackers.’ Kind of the good and the evil.”

Ken Culp, an instructor in NMU’s department of mathematics and computer science, said the workshop taught the students the basics of cyber security, but also showed them the exciting part of a field that can all too easily be portrayed as dull and little more than staring at a screen for eight hours a day.

Culp said hackers comprise some of the smartest young people in America, and their talents should be used on the right side of the law.

“That is a resource we want to tap as a country,” Culp said. “We need to tap the brightest minds in this country and get them to help fight computer crime and cyber security issues because the hackers are winning because they outnumber us. The bad guys outnumber the good guys.”

Some career fields introduced to the students included being a cyber security specialist for a corporation or company, as well as working in law enforcement.

During the week-long camp, the students heard from two computer science and mathematics professors from Northern as well as two members of NMU’s Information Technologies team and an adjunct instructor in Northern’s criminal justice department.

The students learned how to write code and successfully completed a few simple hacks

Standerford said the growth in the students from the beginning of the camp to the end was fantastic, adding that a growing job field means many potential Northern students may be entering school, looking for a major that will help them in the field of cyber security.

According to an article prepared by Lauren Csorny, an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the information technology field has grown by 37 percent since 2003 and that cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure increased 17-fold between 2009 and 2011.

The article goes on to state that for “security firms that help businesses protect their data and intellectual property is rising,” which is a “major factor in the employment growth in computer systems design and related services.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.