Securing Tomorrow's Digital Leaders: Fortinet Introduces Free K-12 Cyber Curriculum

By Greg Tavarez August 17, 2023

The tactics employed by cyber criminals have evolved into sophisticated methods (like phishing and malware attacks) designed to exploit vulnerabilities in end-users' behavior and technical systems. These tactics directly target individuals to gain unauthorized access to personal and sensitive information, or to breach organizational networks.

At the same time, the cyber skills gap has emerged as a concerning challenge, with the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals surpassing the current supply. It's estimated that over 3.4 million experts are required globally to adequately address this gap, according to an ISC2 report. This scarcity of cybersecurity professionals further exacerbates the vulnerability of organizations to cyber threats, leaving them ill-equipped to defend against the relentless onslaught of advanced attacks.

Fostering cyber awareness is paramount. Organizations must educate their workforce and users about potential threats and train them to identify suspicious activities. But also, why not start cybersecurity awareness at an early age?

The government thinks so. The Office of the National Cyber Director, or ONCD, developed the National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy, or NCWES, meeting President Joe Biden’s call in the 2023 National Cybersecurity Strategy for ONCD to develop a strategy to expand the national cyber workforce, increase its diversity and expand access to cyber education and training.

Supporting that strategy is Fortinet, a driving force in the evolution of cybersecurity and the convergence of networking and security. Fortinet (News - Alert) made available a new Security Awareness curriculum to all K-12 school districts and systems in the U.S. at no cost to help build the cybersecurity workforce of the future and to keep students cyber safe.

This initiative furnishes teachers with a comprehensive guide comprising lesson plans, handouts and other resources. These provisions are designed not only to facilitate an interactive and insightful exploration of cybersecurity essentials but also to align with established academic standards. Developed by former educators and meticulously vetted by current teachers, the curriculum also integrates fundamental competencies such as critical thinking, computational skills, creativity, communication and collaboration.

Across the U.S., educational institutions can readily incorporate this curriculum to instill vital knowledge in K-12 students. The curriculum covers a diverse array of subjects that fortify cybersecurity awareness and advocate for prudent digital safety practices.

Key focal points encompass the cyber threat landscape, allowing students to adeptly identify and counteract potential cyber risks and tactics utilized by malicious actors. The curriculum also addresses the realm of digital safety, imparting skills that enable students to discern online hazards and respond effectively to challenging situations, ultimately fostering secure and respectful online interactions.

Additionally, the program delves into the nuances of online presence, instructing students on the art of judiciously sharing content to cultivate a positive and secure digital footprint.

"Expanding the cybersecurity knowledge and skill sets of our global community, including people of all ages, backgrounds, and life experiences, is essential to help close the cybersecurity talent shortage,” said John Maddison, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Product Strategy, Fortinet. “Our goal is that this and all of Fortinet’s free training initiatives will create a future generation of empowered security professionals.”

This curriculum can help over 55 million K-12 students nationwide and is expected to roll out later this year.

Edited by Alex Passett
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