In November 2020, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) was shut down by a ransomware attack that hit its network systems. Schools, which were operating remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, closed for 115,000 students.

A few months later in May 2021, 150 students from five BCPS schools studied that ransomware attack, named Ryuk, and how to prevent a future attack on BCPS systems at the Cyber Security Symposium, hosted by Eastern Technical, New Town, Parkville, Sollers Point, and Western School of Technology.

“This is our inaugural systemwide cybersecurity symposium,” said Howard L. Jackson, Cisco Academy instructor at New Town High. “Each year, we hope to focus on a different type of cyberattack. The topic this year will be Ryuk ransomware.”

Prior to the start of the symposium, BCPS teachers prepared students by researching Ryuk ransomware attacks, enlisting the help of the NetAcad System Engineers Connect Program, which connects students with the expertise of Cisco employees and is available for every Cisco Networking Academy.

Students then created presentations on security systems to detect, refine, and defend against future cyberattacks. Judges evaluated each team’s presentations and presented critique and feedback of each project.

Participating students applied the “Think-Pair-Share” pedagogy for developing a case study on how to prevent future cybersecurity attacks at BCPS. Team presentations were judged by their instructors, Cisco partners, and Towson University Cisco Networking Academy staff using a customized rubric and point system.

Joseph Muniz, Cisco architect and security researcher, was the guest speaker and spoke about “Securing the Future – Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).” He explained why cybersecurity is so important and discussed how a security breach could occur and measures that could be used to prevent the breach from happening. He explained the need for cutting edge technology, SASE, the trend of managing security in the cloud and software defined networks.

Muniz designs security systems for Fortune 500 corporations as well as the U.S. Government. You can follow him at www.thesecurityblogger.com.

Muniz also went into detail about the importance of IT career paths and the impact and demand for those talents and skills in the industry. The big demand for the newest career opportunities in cyber security include DevOps, security capabilities, cloud delivered security, security operation center, security orchestration, automation and response, and threat research.

The students had lots of questions and wondered why and how Muniz transitioned from a job in gaming to a career in cybersecurity. Muniz explained how he moved from Florida to D.C. with no job and got his start at Northrop Grumman as telephone support staffer, while waiting to be hired by Microsoft to write video games. He then became interested in network security. He learned more about the company and was promoted within Northrop Grumman, making more money there than Microsoft offered him.

After the Q & A, there was an open mic session where students and teachers thanked Muniz for his presentation and talked about how they were inspired. One student appreciated the in-depth presentation on cyber security. Another student admitted he initially wasn’t that interested in the IT field but now feels “there are so many different directions his career could go in the field.”

I hope students have gained confidence to pursue careers in IT. They are fortunate to have an early start on receiving education and exposure in this area through the Cisco Networking Academy.