Over the years we’ve seen massive cyber attacks on renowned brands like Ashley Madison, Target, Sony and Home Depot; however, not all attacks are aimed against corporations. Some of today’s most noteworthy attacks are happening in the modern-day classroom as more school processes become Internet-enabled and, perhaps more importantly, as students become more skilled in the art of hacking.
Case in point: two separate incidences were recently reported in which students worked to compromise the integrity of their schools’ underlying networks.
The first case, which took place in New York, involved a 17 year-old student breaching his school’s network in an effort to raise his own grades. As a result, students’ school ID numbers and personal contact information (i.e. names, addresses) became publicly accessible. Meanwhile, in Wichita, Kansas, a public school is currently in the process of investigating who attempted to hack its internal network system. As a result of this attempted attack, the school was forced to temporarily disable some of its district’s computers, which affected students, parents and school administrators alike.
One parent, for example, told reporters that she knows many parents, herself included, who use the school’s computer systems in order to check in on their kids; therefore, the attack affected their level of visibility into their children’s’ school lives. “It’s easy to [see] if they have missing assignments and be able to correct them before you have to wait to get to conferences for teachers to tell you,” she explained.
These attacks weren’t considered so much a safety concern by school administrators as they were an inconvenience; however, such breaches do undeniably pose a threat to schools today. Perhaps more important, however, is the vast opportunity that these young hackers offer as soon-to-be members of the working world.
Some of today’s most skilled attackers have yet to graduate high school, yet they display an affinity for network security that should be nurtured and encouraged in a healthy environment. With the U.S. suffering from a lack of qualified IT professionals capable of performing such tasks as identifying and eliminating network vulnerabilities, today’s emerging talent pool could very well represent the next wave of workers that is capable of closing this gap.
From my perspective, these kinds of students have great job opportunities at their fingertips. If these individuals are really interested in breaking into things online, my suggestion would be this: Don’t change your grade; build a home lab, find some training or a mentor, or find a specialized higher education program that enables you to turn your curiosity into a very lucrative career. The world needs people with these skills.
Today’s students could represent tomorrow’s most qualified IT staff, but only if their skills are nurtured and encouraged in a positive way.