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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 1 year ago

The next generation of cyber sleuths

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Fifth-graders get a chance to test security interests.

Target, Equifax, Yahoo, Home Depot ... what do these four seemingly disparate companies have in common?

Those businesses are just a few of the high-profile U.S. corporations that have endured massive cybersecurity breaches — crimes that compromised personal and financial information belonging to tens of millions of customers. Hackers made off not with money, but a currency even more valuable: credit card and Social Security numbers.

With such crimes expected to proliferate in conjunction with a rise in e-commerce cybersecurity promises to be a future-proof career path. To that end, Tampa-based IT security firm ReliaQuest and Junior Achievement of Tampa are teaming up to make sure the region's young people can get a head start in the field.

In late October, ReliaQuest launched what it says is a first-of-its-kind, simulated cybersecurity “storefront.” It gives fifth-graders a chance to experience what it would be like to be a cybersecurity professional tasked with protecting businesses' computer networks from threats such as malware, viruses and hackers.

The effort is part of JA BizTown, Junior Achievement's immersive “city” in Tampa that allows kids to play the role of business leader, employee or customer of more than 20 companies and organizations in the Tampa Bay region, including Raymond James, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Publix and Bank of America.

“Today's kids work with technology every day and already understand so many concepts around cybersecurity - whether they realize it or not,” says ReliaQuest CEO Brian Murphy in a press release. “If we can highlight how cybersecurity impacts them every day and spark awareness, interest or passion at this age, imagine how much better off we'll all be in the future.”

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