Jackson Co. students win top honors in cyber security competition

Jackson Co. students win top honors in cyber security competition

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Recent hacking cases involving Sony and the U.S. Military Command's Twitter and YouTube sites have raised concerns over cyber security. Some Jackson County students are learning how to prevent such attacks. The JROTC team at St. Martin High just won first place in Mississippi in the National Youth CyberPatriot Defense Competition.

They are learning terms that may sound foreign to many, but the lessons can help the JROTC students protect computers from being attacked.

"I want to go to college for ROTC, or I want to enlist in the Air Force, and I want to go protect Air Force computers," said Brian Roberts.

Brian is a sophomore at Vancleave High School, but he is the lead cadet for the CyberPatriot Team based at St. Martin High School. The program aims to motivate students toward careers in cyber security or other STEM related fields. Their mentors are actual cyber instructors who currently train enlisted airmen and officers at Keesler Air Force Base.

"We're hitting them while they're 15, 16, 17, and saying, 'This is not hard. We're going to bring you up and make you even better, so when I get to you, you have a better shot at being a better cyber operator,'" said Tech. Sgt. David Sorensen, Keesler Cyber Operations Instructor.

Sorensen and Tech. Sgt. Brandon Barnes volunteer their time to train the young cadets.

"I thought this was a great opportunity to express what I love, and I think everybody needs to be aware of," said Sorensen.

Last month, the team took home the top prize in the CyberPatriot Competition. In the competition, the team members took on the position of newly-hired IT professionals who are in charge of a small company's network. The Jackson County team earned the highest points in the state for securing several operations systems.

"We had to go through and make sure they're all secure and they all have passwords and they all have a minimum password length," said Brian.

"It was really frustrating, but so much fun. I was in the hot seat where I had to do everything to set the computer on the right path. It felt awesome," said CyberPatriot Team member Daijai Mitchell.

The lessons they are learning now could lead them to jobs that are in high demand.

"These guys are going to be noticed on a big scale. This CyberPatriot is taking big notice from a lot of different companies," said Sorensen.

"You should know about your computer, because if you don't, what are you going to do when someone comes and messes your computer? I would say you can probably save a lot of money, because now you know how to take care of your computer," said Daijai.

There are plans to offer the program to non-JROTC students in Jackson County.

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