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Girl Scouts earn cybersecurity badges at UAH

MADISON – Girls Scouts in Troop 708 in Madison earned various badges at the Center for Cybersecurity Research and Education at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The girls qualified for badges in “Cybersecurity 2: Safeguards” and “Cybersecurity 3: Investigator.” Their training will help them realize the challenges that lie ahead for the nation’s future cybersecurity workforce.

“Troop leader Beth Crocker told me about the cybersecurity badges and asked if I’d be willing to train them,” Sharon Johnson said. A former Brownie herself, Johnson works as the cybersecurity center’s deputy director.

“I developed the class materials and some hands-on exercises and quizzes, using a list of topics provided by Girl Scouts USA,” Johnson said.

Girls Scouts USA introduced cybersecurity badges in a new line that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math or STEM fields. “Last year, 23 new STEM and outdoor badges were added, while this year saw the addition of 18 cybersecurity badges and a series of space science badges,” Crocker said.

Girls in Troop 708 unanimously decided to pursue the badges. “I have started allowing my troop to pick the badge work they’re interested in,” Crocker said. “I’m fortunate that my 13 third-graders are almost all interested in science and technology.”  

“The girls love all the science stuff. I love that many area experts are willing to help teach my girls,” Crocker said.

The Safeguards badge emphasizes staying safe when online, creating an online identity, determining information to keep safe, sharing information online and figuring out which people to trust online. The Investigator badge tasks a Scout to solve cybercrimes, ‘crack’ a simple code, identify real versus fake photographs, understand digital footprints and learn how a computer virus spreads, Johnson said.

At each session’s end, the Scouts had a quiz with five questions each about Safeguards and Investigator badges. “They all passed with flying colors,” Johnson said.

Johnson previously has introduced cybersecurity to a younger audience. She is coordinator of the UAH center’s Expanding Cybersecurity Innovative Incubator to Extended Demographics or ExCIITED program. EXCIITED gives high school students in rural Alabama with little exposure to STEM the opportunity to gain insight into cybersecurity.

“We’re passionate about cybersecurity and sharing it with others,” Johnson said. “We’re always looking for the female perspective in a technology field. (Women) tend to be more detail oriented, to see the data from different perspectives and pick up on different clues that others might miss.”

Crocker has asked Johnson (who agreed) to offer cybersecurity training for all 500-plus Girl Scouts in Madison.

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