With an ever-growing attack surface in an increasingly interconnected world, there has never been a more critical time to educate and train a cybersecurity workforce with the advanced skills required for meaningful jobs that complement technological innovation. Palo Alto Networks plays a leading role in that mission and is committed to bolstering and diversifying the cyber talent pipeline through cybersecurity awareness and education.
In recognition of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden recently issued a call to action to employers: “Continue to address cyber workforce demands, build long-term workforce capacity, and position all Americans to benefit from the enormous potential of our interconnected future.” As a testament to our support of this call to action, we are excited to kick off the 2023-2024 Secure the Future competition and encourage all interested students to apply before October 13.
Beginning October 14, this competition will challenge 100 college students at community and four-year colleges and universities around the country to identify and tackle cyberthreats that target vulnerable industries, including energy, transportation, finance, healthcare and education. Participants embark on a guided, self-paced journey of academic learning, delving into advanced cybersecurity technologies and defense methods, engaging in discussion groups, as well as completing assignments and assessments that gauge their progress. Each contestant will develop a competition report, summary video and presentation that, at a minimum, will include methodologies for deploying end-to-end attack detection, alert triage, threat hunting, investigation, orchestration and automated response activities.
The top 10 finalists will present their research to a panel of Palo Alto Networks experts at company headquarters in Santa Clara, California. The top three finalists are awarded cash prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500, respectively. The 10 finalists will also be eligible for job interviews for full-time and internship positions. To date, seven participants have been hired from the annual competition into the full-time workforce at Palo Alto Networks.
In addition to the real-world experience that Secure The Future provides contestants, it empowers them to promote solutions utilizing the latest in cybersecurity technology. For example, the Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy recently began offering courses on an emerging technology to secure hybrid and remote workforces, known as secure access service edge (SASE), and this coursework is leveraged throughout the competition. While this solution is considered new and innovative to seasoned cyber professionals, it can be considered a baseline for young talent. This was demonstrated by the finalists in the 2022 competition, where everyone presented a SASE-first solution. They understood today's environment and are poised for the cyber roles of the future.
The Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy curriculum, leveraged throughout the competition, is aligned with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s NICE Framework. It is continuously updated to reflect best practices in preparing the cyber workforce to protect our digital way of life.
To learn more about the competition and enrollment process, review the academic competition overview here. Enroll in the 2023 Secure the Future Course for a chance to make a difference in the future of cybersecurity.