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2023 Cybersecurity Camps Hosted for Youth and Educators

To foster interest in technology and teach safe computer usage to youth, the Department of Information Systems at the BYU Marriott School of Business and other departments at Brigham Young University coordinated three separate week-long cybersecurity camps for educators and teenage girls and boys this July. Through specialized training and presentations from faculty and industry experts, this year’s camps educated 20 teachers and 180 youth from the state of Utah.

Participants of the Girls Camp.
Participants of the 2023 BYU Cybersecurity Camp for girls.
Photo courtesy of the Department of Information Systems

Classes during the camps covered topics on basic coding, thinking ethically, ChatGPT, data analytics, social engineering, threat hunting, and neurosecurity. “We teach them six main things: confidentiality, integrity, availability, defense-in-depth, keeping it simple, and thinking like an adversary,” explains Justin Giboney, camp director and associate professor of information systems.

These six principles are taught through various activities, such as lock-picking, recognizing dark patterns (design elements that deliberately mislead users), a virtual capture-the-flag competition, a BYU-produced research project that teaches penetration testing (simulated attacks on a computer system to evaluate its security), a starship simulator with cybersecurity challenges, a tour of the CES security operations center, and a tour of the MRI lab.

At each of the camps, BYU faculty and professionals in the industry came to speak to participants about different facets of cybersecurity.

The goal of the cybersecurity camps is to open the eyes of all participants into the world of technology, especially for those who do not know much about it yet. “Just because they haven’t done this before, doesn’t mean they can’t,” explains Bonnie Anderson, an information systems professor and an associate dean at BYU Marriott. “Having an opportunity when the children have a fun experience like this can change a trajectory.”

Woman speaking in front of a crowd.
Bonnie Anderson speaking at the 2023 BYU Cybersecurity Camp.
Photo courtesy of the Department of Information Systems.

Anderson is passionate about helping young girls be more exposed to the world of technology. “I’ve been working for 20-plus years to try to be a role model and get more girls into technical fields, and specifically the discipline of information systems. There's a lot of socialized impostor syndrome, which I’m trying to help do away with,” Anderson shares.

Learning about tech topics was the key that helped Ava Petersen, now a current BYU student studying cybersecurity and computer science from Dacula, Georgia, connect with other tech-savvy girls when she attended the camp at 13 years old. “At that point, I didn’t know any other girls who were like me. And so just being able to go and hang out with other people that like that kind of stuff was really cool,” Petersen says.

For Petersen, seeing women in tech changed how she viewed her future. “Looking back, part of what had an impact on me were some keynote speakers who were women working in the field,” Peterson shares. “Because there are fewer women in technology, it was really nice to see what their career paths look like and how that could look for me.”

The information systems department hopes that the students will keep coming back to camp to have fun and to learn new things about technology and cybersecurity. “My favorite part about the camps is the students’ excitement when they are learning something new,” says Giboney.

Group photos of all the participants in the boys camp.
Participants of the 2023 BYU Cybersecurity Camp for boys.
Photo courtesy of the Department of Information Systems

Andrew, a 14-year-old participant of the camp shares, “I plan on going again, next year and then the year after that.”

The cybersecurity camps are a university-wide effort with speakers, staff, and organizers from the BYU Marriott School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. With the generous support of GenCyber and Arctic Wolf, the camps are free for all participants.


Written by Kacee Call