Op-Eds

Those of us who grew up before the Internet age can remember hearing stories about bank robbers that made them sound more like legends than the criminals they were. Outlaws like Jesse James, John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde were idealized with a Robin Hood-esque persona. One of these infamous bank robbers, Willie Sutton, was allegedly asked why he robbed banks.  

His reply? "Because that's where the money is."  

Unfortunately, criminals today still prey on the innocent and cause chaos, but instead of busting into banks wearing masks and carrying guns, criminals carry a laptop and look for Wi-Fi "hotspots" to wreak havoc. No longer do the bad guys have to spend countless hours developing a plan, staking out targets and physically infiltrating a store, a bank, or even a top-secret government facility. Instead, hackers only have to use a high-speed Internet connection and a little bit of knowledge to steal your money, your identity or government or industry secrets halfway across the world.  

If you think cybercrime and cyberterrorism aren't real, think again. According to the FBI, in 2008 a wave of thieves fanned out across the globe and almost simultaneously walked off with more than $9 million within 12 hours, using cloned credit card numbers they got by hacking a major credit card company in Atlanta. Further, in 2009 Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense lost plans to America's future advanced jet fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- one that isn't even mass-produced yet -- to suspected Chinese hackers.  

Why is this happening? According to Jim Gosler, founding director of the CIA's Clandestine Information Technology Office: "There are about 1,000 people in the U.S. who have the specialized skills to operate effectively against these criminals at a world-class level in cyberspace. To be effective, we need 10,000 to 30,000."  

That's why we are excited to join the Department of Defense, the FBI, the SANS Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in hosting the nation's first-ever U.S. Cyber Challenge Summer Camps, located in California, New York and right here in Delaware.  

Where cyberguardians are made  

Like a farm system in baseball, these challenges are the training grounds for the next generation of cybersecurity experts. Selection isn't based on what degree you have or what school you went to. Instead, it's based on how good you are in the field of cyberspace. The summer camps serve almost as a preseason camp to see how well you can learn, adapt and, more important, defend America from cyberattacks.  

The goal of the U.S. Cyber Challenge and the summer camp in Delaware is to identify, train and recruit "cyberguardians" whose skills are unparalleled in the world. These highly trained individuals -- all college students -- will compete in a series of challenges on hacking, digital forensics, cybersecurity and reverse engineering to see who the best and brightest are among them. Then we will train some of them to be world-class cybersecurity experts, with the help of volunteers from Wilmington University, the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical & Community College.  

Graduates of the summer camps will be some of the most sought-after professionals in the country.  

They will be recruited for internships and jobs in agencies like the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Or, they could end up working in the private sector defending critical parts of our infrastructure, like the electric grid, our telecommunications network or our financial system.  

This week, individuals in Delaware will be among the first class of cyberguardians to graduate from one of the country's most competitive cybersecurity summer camps. In the coming months and years, the program will be expanded to more students, from more schools, in more states.  

We are thrilled that this idea that began more than a year and a half ago has developed into one of the country's most exciting and important summer camps. When asked, "What did you do this summer?" not many students can say that they learned valuable skills that not only will help them get a high-quality job but will also enable them to safeguard some of our nation's most valuable assets.  

And it is a special point of pride that once again the First State will be leading the way in this critical national security effort. In order to keep America on the cutting edge in the 21st century, we need to invest time and money into programs like the U.S. Cyber Challenge to foster the kind of talent that can thwart the Willie Suttons of today's world.