Badges make today's Girl Scouts tomorrow's cybersleuths
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How safe is your data? Probably not as safe as you think. Everything from international cyber attacks to your smart refrigerator can put personal information at risk. This includes your money and even your own safety. But there is help - the world has a new cybercrime-fighting force - the Girl Scouts. That's according to Catherine Thorbecke reporting for ABC News
In 2017, the Girl Scouts of the USA announced that it developed a series of cybersecurity badges. Thorbecke reported that the badges cover everything from hacking to online identity protection. They were released in fall 2018.
The thought of scouts learning to thwart hackers and tackle cyberthreats may seem surprising, but it shouldn’t be. The hundreds of badges a Girl Scout can currently earn don’t all involve campfires and first aid. Rather, they encompass everything from fashion to business, social innovation to computing. And the Girl Scouts' leadership made a commitment to STEM education. They wanted to develop a scientific and technological discovery program that exposes girls to STEM topics every year. One such topic is cybersecurity.
The organization partnered with Palo Alto Networks, a security company, to develop the 18 badges. In a press release, Palo Alto Networks called the program “a huge step toward eliminating traditional barriers to industry access, such as gender and geography.” By targeting girls as young as five with badges that require mastery of different cybersecurity topics, the hope is that today’s Girl Scouts will become the future’s industry leaders.
That's important, considering today's cyber industry has proved hard for women to crack. A 2017 report found that despite reporting higher levels of education than men in the industry, just 11 percent of cybersecurity workers are women. Today that number is just 20 percent. Not only do women earn a lower salary in the industry, but they also experience discrimination once they enter the industry.
Fifty-one percent of women surveyed said they’d experienced everything from unexplained delays in advancement to tokenism or exaggerated highlighting of their mistakes. That is compared to just 15 percent of men. As Slate’s Josephine Wolff reported, making industry-adjacent events like hackathons more welcoming to women could help with recruitment. So could the Girl Scouts’ new program.
Encouraging girls to get involved in cyber is a win for everyone—as GSUSA’s CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release, it’s all about cyber-preparedness. And given the cost of cybercrime, which is expected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021, it’s never too early to have more cybersleuths on the case.