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Preparing the next generation of cybercrime experts

The University of Scranton is hosting a summer camp for high schoolers this week to teach them the skills they'd need to enter the field of cybersecurity.

SCRANTON, Pa. — The group of high school students at the University of Scranton on Wednesday may have been sitting inside a classroom, but within the virtual world of their computer screens, they were fending off a cyberattack at a simulated airport.

"It was simulating if there was a cyberattack; quarantining things, and delegating people to manage different sites to make sure that the entire network doesn't go down," explained Scranton Prep junior Finnbarr Whittaker.

Whittaker was already interested in the cybersecurity field when recent ransomware attacks made national headlines, but news of the hacks is what inspired Scranton High School senior Yeraiza Peña to enroll in this summer camp at the university.

"Well, it was very concerning, and it made me want to think about all the situations that don't just only occur here but occur everywhere that we need to be aware of," said Peña.

After day one, she's already planning to combine her new interest with her existing interest in law when choosing her college major.

That's exactly what professors here were hoping for when they planned this camp.

"One of the primary goals of our three-day camp is to have students who see the world of cybersecurity and cyber-investigation as open to them, and something that they can achieve as future professionals who want to give back to society in a way that is of interest to them," said Dr. Michael Jenkins, associate professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Scranton.

It's a profession that's likely to be in high demand by the time these students graduate college. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for information security analysts is expected to increase by 31 percent from 2019 to 2029. That's good news for Finnbarr Whittaker.

"I'm interested in computers mostly, and this is one of the few job opportunities you can get in the U.S. because most of the other tech stuff is outsourced to other countries that can do it cheaper, but security stuff you want to keep closer to home."