Tabatha Dye had known about the security risks to home computers. The Alabama high school student recently had a hacker use an online screen name for ill uses. Through a seminar offered by those who work in the highest levels of government IT security, Dye recently learned how to make sure that doesn't happen again.
Springfield company Computer Systems Center Incorporated (CSCI), a contractor for government Information Technology (IT) systems and security, held a one-day seminar in computer security for 40 high school students from across the country. The students were part of the Presidential Classroom program and were in the Washington, D.C. area for a week-long session of the 37-year old program.
"This is the future, and they are the ones who are going to be out in five years looking for a job. It's great to give them a head start," said Lara Anderson, spokesperson for CSCI.
The students were in the Washington, D.C. area for a week, visiting several government venues, including Congress, the Smithsonian Institute and the National Security Agency. The students also had the opportunity to visit with a NASA astronaut.
The 40 students were part of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy track of the Presidential Classroom program, a non-profit program started in 1968 to give outstanding high school students the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for a week and visit the various branches of the federal government.
"It's really educational, because it takes us inside the government, it takes us to things we don't usually get to see. It's a large number of people from different backgrounds coming together, so you get to learn a lot about the world, and specifically our government," said student Nathan Chovanec from Bloomington, Minn.
At CSCI, the Presidential Classroom students were divided into four groups, and took part in four, 20-minute seminars devoted to computer security. Instructors from CSCI gave students a crash course in operating a wireless network, pointing out the importance of making sure the network is secure to prevent possible hacking or other illegal activity perpetrated from the outside.
The program helped to connect the dots for high school juniors and seniors about that computer jargon they had been hearing.
"I learned a bunch of stuff about firewalls and stuff that I had heard before, but never really knew what it meant," said Chovanec. "Some of it was still over my head, but I think I got a better understanding."