LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – In a dark room inside UNLV’s Science and Engineering Building Friday morning, high schoolers were trying to escape.
But, laughs and excited screams were heard on the other side of the door. UNLV students and faculty designed and built an escape room to teach them the necessity of cybersecurity.
Christian Rodriguez and other camp counselors led 40 students during the College of Engineering’s GenCyber Camp, a five-day summer session where accepted highschoolers learned the tricks of hackers to better protect themselves from falling victim: tampering USBs, scanning for phishing emails, cracking codes, even picking locks.
In an hour, student teams were tasked with utilizing the week’s worth of teaching to progress through multiple rooms.
“We don’t say, ‘Hey, cybersecurity is just software.’ No. It comes to physical security as well,” Rodriguez said during an escape room tour Friday morning. “In real life, a lot of (what is taught) can actually be very realistic.”
While the goal was to break out, it was also to garner interest in cybersecurity careers. Nevada joins the nation in a shortfall that no one can seem to hack.
As of Friday, Cyberseek reported 6,271 vacant cybersecurity positions in Nevada and 663,434 openings across the nation.
It adds that there are only enough workers to fill 69 percent of the cybersecurity jobs in national demand.
Juyeon Jo teaches the next generation of cybercrime fighters at UNLV as a computer science professor.
Some of those college-level teachings were given to these high schoolers in hopes they leave knowing how to detect cybercrime, protect cyber infrastructure and practice safe online behavior.
“Most companies are looking for cybersecurity experts,” Jo said inside the Science and Engineering Building Friday morning. “When (the students) go home, they can protect their network system. Also, at school, they can talk about the importance of cybersecurity to their peers and students and teachers.”
Students, like High School Junior Stephanie Lugo, say they caught the bug: that is, an interest in a future career doing what they learned this week.
“It was pretty hectic,” Lugo said outside the escape room Friday morning, recounting the final minutes before she and her team escaped. “Before it felt kind of scary, but now I feel like I can actually do it because I’ve learned it. I’ve got hands-on experience.”
ZipRecruiter reports the average annual salary for a cybersecurity professional at over $110,000, though many positions require a related degree or training.