Cisco hosted the Southern California Cybercup Challenge in December in Cisco’s Customer Experience Center, and I was lucky to welcome a group of college and high school kids from across the state of California for the competition. Cisco hosts more than 2,500 customers a year in the John T. Chambers Customer Experience Center in our San Jose headquarters, but rarely are they so “young in career.”

A Cyber Cup Challenge is a competition between teams against cybersecurity challenges. We read and hear about stolen data almost daily – but it’s always from the point of view the people affected by the hack. These kids were trying to see a hack from the point of view of the hacker: How did they get in? What did they do? How can we stop it?

The hands-on technical challenge and experience was all about learning, with a spirit of competition. What fascinated me were the kids themselves. The room of 100 or so was clearly full of both girls and boys, and the crowd was equally diverse. I’m used to my little Macbook and iPhone, but these kids brought laptop PCs that were big and had all kinds of gadgets hanging off them. One kid’s laptop must have had such a fast processor that it had a visible heat sink attached to the rear of the laptop.

The smartest and brightest from California were in the room. It was clear these kids were technologically ready for the challenge and not intimidated. I couldn’t help but believe the world was in good hands with these kids ready to take on the challenge of cyber-security.

But then I asked them, “what is the #1 security concern for companies today?” Most knew the name of some popular ransomware hacks or companies who’ve had data stolen – the artifacts of failed cyber-security strategies. What I realized was important to tell these young students was that cyber-security was more than a technological challenge – not matter how fast or cool those PCs in the room were.

Most cyber-hacks are result of process or people breaking down, not technology. The vast majority of the CIOs who visit Cisco tell us that “insider threats” are what worries them most about cyber-security. Insiders are people who either are actively aware or inadvertently aware of their participation in a hack.

When the competition started, I could hear a few conversations talking about people and their behaviors before the kids jumped in. Someone had to win the competition – congrats to the winning teams – but I hope the experience at Cisco expanded the world view of these students to see cyber security as a people, process and technology challenge.

The world needs these students to succeed – both for themselves and for our own cyber-security peace of mind.

The Technologies They Used

The students who participated in the Cyber Cup Challenge used the Circadence Project Aires platform, which gamifies security configuration on Windows and Linux environments.
These technologies were chosen to create awareness among middle and high school kids in regards to cyberthreats that can exploit the everyday devices that they use.

Students also learned to use Cisco Spark technologies to collaborate with their peers as well as with Coaches and mentors. They accessed the challenge content through online access – yet another hole in a company’s security.

With the growing number of connected devices available to youngsters at an early age, there is a real concern about hackers exploiting the identities of kids. This emphasizes the need to create cyber best practices awareness to help protect the users. Secondly, the number of career opportunities in cyber security are growing exponentially. Participation in challenges like the Cyber Cup Security Challenge hosted by Cisco, helps create pathways for students to choose a career in Security related technologies.

As part of Cisco’s hosting, the students were given demonstrations on Cisco’s Umbrella, StealthWatch, and Firepower solutions. We also had presenters from the Cisco DevNet team talk with the students to educate them on how they can leverage the DevNet portal to further their knowledge in software programming and learning about APIs.

Find out more about the SoCal Cybercup Challenge.
The following are dCloud demos for the technologies used in the challenge.

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Ron Ricci

Vice President, Customer Experience Services, Cisco Systems

Sales Enablement