The Girl Scouts are partnering with Palo Alto Networks security to help train the next generation of cybersecurity experts. Starting in September 2018, the Scouts will offer the first in a series of 18 badges based around digital protection.
According to TechRepublic, the first badges will be available for girls ages 5-6 and will teach the basics of firewalls and identity protection. Programs for older Scouts will roll out in 2019, and will teach complex programming and ethical hacking skills.
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This is not the first time the Scouts have shown a willingness to get into coding and programming — they’ve started making games about s’mores, after all. But these new badges represent something more socially-conscious. Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts, said of the badges:
At Girl Scouts of the USA, we recognize that in our increasingly tech-driven world, future generations must possess the skills to navigate the complexities and inherent challenges of the cyber realm. From arming our older girls with the tools to address this reality to helping younger girls protect their identities via internet safety, the launch of our national cybersecurity badge initiative represents our advocacy of cyber preparedness.
One of the motivations behind this decision was a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, which indicates the world will have a deficit of qualified cybersecurity professionals by 2021. Specifically, we will be short by 3.5 million qualified workers in that area.
Granted, even if every Scout went on to get a job in cybersecurity, it wouldn’t necessarily fill that gap — there are currently 1.8 million Girl Scouts, not counting the adults. But with cyberattacks like WannaCry and this week’s Petya starting to become more and more common, having several knowledgeable young people ready to shrink that deficit would definitely help.
The self-described duty of the Scouts is to “contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others.” It’s nice to see them using that mandate to get young women into tech from an early age.