Program points girls toward cybersecurity skills

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 238 views 

Arkansas is participating in an initiative to encourage female students to learn cybersecurity skills.

The Arkansas Department of Education announced Tuesday (Feb. 19) that Arkansas is partnering with the SANS Institute, the world’s largest information security training provider. It provides cybersecurity training and certification for government and commercial institutions across the globe.

Through the partnership, female students in grades 9-12 can play Girls Go CyberStart,, a free online game that encourages students to explore cyber studies and learn cybersecurity skills.

Students can play alone or in teams to solve challenges, earn points and advance though different levels, earning prizes such as trips, gift certificates and computers. The three Arkansas schools with the most participants will earn financial prizes.

When the CyberStart program was launched in 2017, the SANS Institute noticed only 5% of the participants were women. The Girls Go CyberStart game is meant to increase that participation.

After Gov. Asa Hutchinson took office in 2015, the first law he signed required all Arkansas high schools to offer a computer science course. Since then, the number of students taking a course has increased from 1,100 to 8,044 during the 2018-19 school year. The number of female students rose from 220 in 2014 to more than 2,400 this year.

“In the past four years, the number of girls taking computer science has increased more than 1,000 percent,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said a the press release announcing the partnership.

“I am pleased that the Department of Education is partnering with the SANS Institute to encourage young women to learn about cybersecurity. Computer science and cybersecurity are too important to the future of our state for us to move forward without the skills and intelligence that women will bring to the field. I am confident this training program will bolster the number of girls in our computer science programs, and the state will be stronger for that addition of talent,” he added.