RALEIGH Dec 11, 2020 Gov. Roy Cooper is encouraging high school students in North Carolina to explore careers in cybersecurity by participating in CyberStart America, an online cybersecurity talent search and competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and SANS Institute. Students in grades 9-12 can explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science while also earning chances to win prizes and recognition for their schools, as well as scholarships for themselves. Complete details can be found at www.cyberstartamerica.org, including registration. The deadline to register is March 8, 2021. "We are connected more now than ever to the internet, and that makes us all more vulnerable to online crimes,” Cooper said. "That’s why it’s important to educate our future cyber security workforce from a young age and CyberStart America helps us do that." CyberStart America is a series of free challenges in which students act as “cyber protection agents” to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles and explore related topics, such as code breaking, programming, networking and digital forensics. The program can be assigned as part of homework, can form the basis of an extracurricular club, or students can just try it on their own. Students and their teachers do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate. They learn everything they need to know in the game. North Carolina has been an avid participant in Girls Go CyberStart, a free online cybersecurity competition for high school girls. The program was so successful, sponsors decided to open the competition to all high school students, creating CyberStart America. Communities have been set up to encourage young women and junior ROTC cadets in participating in the CyberStart America program as well as to provide additional support. Any student who reaches Level 5 in the competition will qualify for the national competition in April and a chance to win scholarships. The National Cyber Scholarship Foundation anticipates awarding $2 million to 600 high-scoring students across the country. Students will also be able to compete for state-specific and community-specific prizes as well as national championship status. There will also be incentives for North Carolina high schools to encourage more students to reach the qualifying level in the CyberStart game, including exclusive access to additional cybersecurity education resources and recognized cyber skills mastery badges for their students. “North Carolina is so proud of the state’s Girls Go CyberStart participants,” said State Chief Risk Officer Maria Thompson, who oversees the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s efforts to protect the state’s computer networks and data. “The future of cybersecurity is very bright and will only continue to grow with the expansion of programs like CyberStart America.” Students will be informed that they qualify for the CyberStart National Scholarship Challenge Round (the “Nationals”) as soon as they have achieved sufficient progress, but they are allowed to continue playing and learning in order to build more skills that will be useful to them in the Nationals. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit https://go.cyberstart.com. Participating students and schools are encouraged to share updates on social media with #CyberSecureNC and #CyberStartNC.