Since joining NRL’s Corporate Communications team in December 2019, the George Washington University sophomore has spearheaded virtual cybersecurity seminars in classrooms near Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. It has now reached students in other states such as Ohio and California, and promises to expand its wings even further.
CyberWeek is open to kindergarten students through high school seniors. Even at ages eight and nine, Mondal said, students grasp fundamental cybersecurity concepts such as password protection, phishing, and two-factor authentication. Other topics covered include cryptocurrency, Department of Defense (DoD) career opportunities and development, cyberbullying, and social engineering.
“It’s exciting to see young students eager to learn about how to secure their online presence at school, home and in their community,” Mondal said. “Some of these are concepts many adults are not fully aware of.”
As people rely on technology at an increased, almost exponential rate year after year, Mondal said, students must be able to use their knowledge to protect themselves from possible threats, attacks, and cyber mishaps.
“It is crucial to give students the opportunity to begin their cybersecurity education in their early developmental years,” she said.
So far, the curriculum has been taught to public school students in two Maryland counties, Prince George’s and Frederick. Baltimore City Public Schools also plans to use the curriculum. Since the program is virtual, it continues to expand nationwide.
Across the board, students’ reactions to CyberWeek have been positive. Their favorite segments included talking to researchers about the projects they work on, finding out what opportunities are available once they are out of school, how to recognize and avoid email phishing scams on the internet, and what to aim for in school to earn scholarships, internships and DoD careers.
“If you want to be an intern, you should be willing to put time in, work hard, learn new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone,” one student said.
Another student addressed cyber bullying.
“People should be more aware of cyber bullying,” the student said. “I was bullied at my school when I was younger, and I wish people would give more attention to this topic because this is a very serious matter.”