New Facebook Game Teaches Cybersecurity Skills
Creators of CyberVille hope to engage players in cybersecurity and build interest in the field.
The Arlington-based Air Force Association is continuing its effort to educate young people on the importance of cybersecurity by meeting students where they are: on Facebook.
On Friday, the nonprofit association's CyberPatriot office launched a social media game called CyberVille, in which players defend their virtual town from attacks against that town's wired infrastructure, including banks, restaurants, and police and fire departments.
"It's just a cute little game, but it has a profound message," said Bernie Skoch, commissioner of the CyberPatriot program. "We want to show people how pervasive cyber systems are. We can't run public safety departments without cyber systems. Hospitals rely on cyber systems. Stores use cyber systems for inventory."
The CyberVille game, modeled after popular games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars, is also an unabashed attempt to draw high school students to the CyberPatriot cyber defense competition, Skoch said.
The competition, now in its fourth year, is designed to teach high school students the language and structure of cyber systems, to recognize vulnerabilities in those systems, and to correct those vulnerabilities.
The competition, in turn, is an unabashed attempt to get more students interested in cybersecurity with the hope that they will develop into cybersecurity professionals.
For Skoch and others in the Air Force Association, these efforts stem from a gap between the need for those professionals and the number of interested students.
"We're concerned that we're not attracting enough young men and women to STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields," said Skoch. "We as a country can't stay on top without cybersecurity."
The CyberVille game and the CyberPatriot competition are sponsored in large part by security giant Northrop Grumman, where there is concern about filling the talent gap in the industry.
"We want to build a pipeline future professionals," said Diane Miller, director of the Cyber Security Group and CyberPatriot program director at Northrop Grumman.
"We try to educate, excite and inspire students to choose this as their career," Miller said, partly through scholarships and internships to the competition's top participants, and partly by "breaking down the mystique of cybersecurity" through the CyberVille game.