It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Did you know that because of the Cybersecurity badges offered for every Girl Scout program grade level, Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, was named Cybersecurity Person of the Year?
The Girl Scout Research Institute recently conducted national research with 2,900 girls and boys ages 5–17 and their parents about their digital experiences and the role technology play in their lives. It showed that more than half of girls see themselves as digital leaders—that is, showing courage, confidence, and character in the digital world. Girls who are digital leaders engage with online content with a critical lens and use technology to improve not only their own lives, but also the world around them.
Current research shows that women make up 47 percent of the workforce, but only 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce. By 2021, there will be a whopping 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs alone. The good news is, girls who are digital leaders are more likely than other girls to be interested in pursuing a career in the STEM and tech fields.
We know girls are interested in technology, hacking, and preventing cybercrime and bullying. Here are some ways to explore cybersecurity with your girl or troop.
Build Your Defenses
Cybersecurity works best when there are “layers of security.” This means there’s not just one defense that keeps technology and data safe. For example, cell phones often have face or thumb recognition, a number code, passwords for specific apps, and other security measures. Have the girls think about the layers of security in their own tech. One way to explore this is to have the girls work in teams to design a castle with at least four layers of security. Maybe your castle has a moat, a drawbridge, a password, and a dragon guarding the gates!
Try Making the Perfect Password
Creating a secure password that you can remember isn’t easy. One tip is to create a sentence that you simplify into a password. For example: “Hannah sees 200 pandas running down the street!” can be simplified to “Hs200prdts!”. (Editor’s note: This isn’t Hannah’s real password, by the way!) That way you can remember your password and have it be secure. Have the girls test out different password ideas. What features do secure passwords have?
Learn About Real-Life Hacks and Their Impacts
In 2018, the city of Atlanta was targeted for a huge ransomware attack. This means hackers shut down key functions like online bill pay, the ability for the police to complete online reports, and even the Wi-Fi at the Atlanta airport. Then, the hackers demanded money to free up the system. Cybersecurity professionals help stop attacks like this one. Ask the girls to think about everything that is controlled by technology or the internet. Can they think of anything at their school or home that could be hacked?
Explore More with Cybersecurity Badges
You can find more activities to do by earning Cybersecurity badges. There are three badges for each program grade level—log into Volunteer Toolkit to find meeting plans to help you lead them every step of the way.
The statistics about the disparity in men and women in the tech field can be a little disheartening, but let your girls know that as they work on their badges, they’re following in the footsteps of some pretty awesome women before them. During World War II, thousands of women enlisted to serve as codebreakers for the military—they effectively pioneered the field of cybersecurity! With these new skills, the girls of today will be the cybersecurity pioneers of the future.
Hannah Gilbert – Hannah is the STEM Program Manager and seasonal Director of Camp Lakamaga at Girl Scouts River Valleys. Truly living her best life, she spends her time during the school year creating science, technology, and engineering events and her summers working outside with staff and campers. Hannah is passionate (and will talk your ear off) about girls taking the lead in their lives—developing persistence and empathy along the way. In her free time, Hannah plays many video games, enjoys a good movie, and loves taking walks with her 6-pound pup, Figgy.