Texas To Partner With SANS Institute To Promote Cybersecurity Career Track For High School Girls And All College Students

February 18, 2019 | Austin, Texas | Press Release

Governor Greg Abbott today announced that Texas will be participating in an innovative cybersecurity training partnership with the SANS Institute for the second year in a row. The Girls Go CyberStart Initiative is designed to encourage young women to become involved in the field of cybersecurity. The partnership focuses on recruiting female high school students in Texas to compete in the Girls Go CyberStart challenge for prizes and the opportunity for all students in their high school to play CyberStart, an online game for students to discover their talents in cybersecurity and learn more about computer security training.

A new companion program introduced this year, Cyber FastTrack, will allow both male and female college level students to participate in a separate competition. Students who excel in both the CyberStart Game and CyberStart Essentials (an online course that extends the learning of CyberStart Game) will be eligible to win $2.5 million in scholarships for advanced cybersecurity training as well as receive introductions to employers for internships and jobs in the field.

"If Texas is to remain a global powerhouse in this 21st century economy and further enhance our national security, we must invest in educational programs that elevate our best and brightest to fields like cybersecurity," said Governor Abbott. "That is why Texas’ partnership with the SANS Institute to recruit talented female students to this field is vital, and I look forward to our continued partnership."

"The nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals," said SANS Director of Research, Alan Paller. "We have new evidence that CyberStart radically improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field. Women are woefully underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity, but by opening CyberStart to tens of thousands of high school girls, we may be able to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field."

"Part of the Texas Cybersecurity Strategic Plan focuses on the need for talented cybersecurity professionals to continue to combat the increasing sophistication of threats facing the state of Texas." said Texas Department of Information Resources Chief Information Security Officer Nancy Rainosek. "CyberStart assists in introducing the young people of Texas to the world of cybersecurity through this innovative platform and beginning the exploration of careers to help increase participation in computer and cybersecurity industries. We are delighted at the opportunity to partner with the SANS Institute again on this initiative. 

Texas saw great success in the 2018 Girls Go CyberStart initiative, finishing 1st in student participation and high school participation, as well as 4th overall in student participation per high school.

As part of CyberStart Game, participants will take on the roles of agents in the Cyber Protection Agency, where they will develop forensics and analysis skills and deploy them to sleuth through challenges and tackle various online cybercriminal gangs. As they work their way through the game, players will be challenged to solve puzzles and be introduced to a broad spectrum of cybersecurity disciplines, including forensics, open-source intelligence, cryptography, and web application security. Participating students do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or IT experience. All that is required is a computer and an Internet connection. This year, at least ten high school girls from Texas will receive scholarships to help them pay for college.

Complete details may be found at girlsgocyberstart.org for Girls Go CyberStart and at cyber-fasttrack.org for Cyber FastTrack. High school girls may register for Girls Go CyberStart through March 20, when the games begin. College students may register for Cyber FastTrack through April 5, when the competition begins.