Student working on a project

Participating students worked on many hands-on projects, including a steganography lab where they learned how to encrypt and find messages within images.

View of anechoic chamber

Students took a tour of UNLV's labs, including an anechoic chamber.

Dec. 2, 2021

Local high school students get hands-on experience, and introduction to UNLV’s cybersecurity program

The cybersecurity field is growing dramatically, with more than 464,000 cybersecurity jobs open in the nation, 2,500 in the state of Nevada alone. With opportunities for cybersecurity professionals abounding, computer science professors in the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering and STEAM/STEM leaders in the Clark County School District recently partnered to introduce high school students to this growing and exciting field.

“Companies large and small are investing billions into protecting their businesses, data and infrastructure from attacks,” said Ju-Yeon Jo, computer science associate professor and UNLV Cybersecurity Day organizer. “These students represent the next generation of computer scientists who can keep those systems secure.”

More than 45 high schoolers and 4 CCSD teachers participated in the event which took students through various hands-on activities including: a steganography lab where students learned how to encrypt and find messages within images; how to use the exchangeable image file (exif) and answer questions about an image through metadata investigation; and tools cybersecurity practitioners use to conduct advanced penetration testing and security auditing. 

To help participants with their lab practices were engineering students, including many from UNLV’s cybersecurity student club, Layer Zero, and the College's Engineering Ambassadors under the leadership of Engineering's Director of Undergraduate Recruitment. These engineering students also assisted with UNLV campus tours, introducing participants to the labs and resources available at the University. 

“A surprise for many students is that they can study cybersecurity in their own backyard, right here at UNLV,” said Jo. 

UNLV has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), sponsored jointly by the National Security Administration (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In addition, the University offers multiple academic programs including an Information Assurance Concentration within the BS or BA in Computer Science, and a Master’s Program in Cybersecurity, an interdisciplinary program provided by the Lee Business School and the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering.

The job outlook for cybersecurity professionals is great, with cybersecurity analysts earning a median pay of more than $103,000 annually. Students had the opportunity to hear about this and other potential career opportunities, and even how to make money through ethical hacking.

Lunch and a round of Kahoot quizzes and prizes - hosted by the College of Engineering - rounded out the day.

“Partnerships like this help to ensure we have a diverse workforce, especially in areas of tech and cyber, by exposing students who may not be aware of what cybersecurity is and its potential career opportunities,” said Snehal Bhakta, Clark County School District Career & Technical Administrator. 

For more information on cybersecurity programs at UNLV, including the NSA/NSF-funded GenCyber Summer Camp for middle and high school students, visit our Cybersecurity Center web page.