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Jordan Riley, a junior at Columbus East High School, will need to stay a step ahead of the hackers when he eventually settles into a job as a computer technician.
After all, the hackers will be trying to stay a step ahead of him — always looking for the next way to get around evolving firewalls and information blockers to steal company data.
“Anybody can get into your stuff. It’s pretty scary,” said Riley, a member of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s C4 Columbus Area Career Connections program.
A Servers and Security class for juniors is being offered for the first time this school year at Columbus North High School, in response to evolving demands from businesses that are becoming more reliant on computers.
Although computers have made life easier for businesses, such as with accounting and inventory, those businesses also are finding themselves vulnerable to an evolving wave of online attacks, said Mike Riley, who teaches the Computer Technology pathway for C4. He said those attacks are coming from hackers who make millions of dollars from the theft of credit card numbers and other valuable and personal data.
Now students are being trained how to create log-in credentials, manage server files, set up internal password protocols and generally seal computers for safety. But they also are learning to be mentally nimble so that security remains a priority as new technologies come about and computers get more sophisticated.
Mike Riley, who is of no relation to Jordan Riley, said Servers and Security is just the latest addition to that pathway.
As with all C4 classes, its goal is to help its students in Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson and portions of Johnson counties meet the demands of modern-day employers with hands-on learning opportunities. The C4 program also helps students learn skills that make them employable.
During the first two weeks of class, the six students spent much of their time on computers, watching videos and doing virtual labs, Mike Riley said. Later they will do scenario learning, duplicating real-world problems that call for creative solutions.
One video explained the danger of modern-day computer hacking as a way to stress the importance for trained and honest computer technicians who know how to protect digital information and adapt to changes.
The video explained that:
Hackers are getting better at what they do. The Internet has gotten easier to navigate, which makes it more usable but also makes distinguishing between an attack and legitimate Internet traffic more difficult.
The volume of attacks has skyrocketed. Anyone can download tools on the Internet to launch an attack.
Modern technology allows viruses to multiply quickly from computer to computer. One virus that made national headlines a few years ago, known as the Sapphire or Slammer Worm, doubled every eight seconds and infected millions of computers.
Caleb Tennis, chief technology officer at the Data Cave in Columbus, said hacking computers is a huge business. He said much of that information — particularly credit card numbers — have a value on the black market.
“If you can steal 10,000 credit card numbers, that’s a lot of money,” he said. “There’s a lot of ways for people to gain access to your data, and it’s changing all the time.”
That’s why the C4 Servers and Security class is so important, said Tennis, who plans to get involved with the C4 pathway as a community partner. Companies realize the importance of protecting their information, which he said emphasizes a need for trained professionals who receive continuing education to stay ahead of hackers.
Gary Drake, 17, a senior from North who is taking the Servers and Security class, said he spent the summer helping reset passwords, installing antivirus software and refreshing other personalized settings for the school district.
He is continuing to work for the district through the year as an assistant computer technician, which is giving him hands-on experience in the field.
He said he knows from what he has learned that anything can happen when it comes to viruses and attacks.
Mike Riley said he expects the number of students in the Servers and Security class to increase in the next few years. Although it has only six students this year, he said 13 students are in the second-year networking class this year and likely will take the junior-year class.
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