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CIAS K–12 Cybersecurity Program goes national to boost student interest

CIAS K–12 Cybersecurity Program goes national to boost student interest

NOVEMBER 3, 2020 — The CIAS K–12 Cybersecurity Program has launched nationally to provide an innovative approach to creating a culture of cybersecurity for people of all ages by improving and expanding student interest in cybersecurity.

The Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at UTSA has partnered with the MITRE Corp. to increase student engagement in elementary, middle and high schools nationwide in STEM fields, specifically in areas of technology and cybersecurity.

“We’re truly excited about this new partnership with the MITRE Corp. and how we can work together to develop a culture of cybersecurity nationwide,” said Greg White, director of the CIAS. “The CIAS has been introducing students to cybersecurity principles through game-based learning programs for several years. In addition to learning how to be better cyber citizens, students are being exposed to job opportunities available in cybersecurity.”

“In addition to learning how to be better cyber citizens, students are being exposed to job opportunities.”

The practical applications of cybersecurity are far reaching. Students as young as 5 years old will improve their knowledge of cybersecurity terminology, defense strategies from cyber threats and build awareness of cybersecurity principles, among other program benefits. 

“We are thrilled with this expansion of our partnership with UTSA on an area of critical national importance,” said Kerry Buckley, vice president, Air Force, MITRE National Security. “We are proud to be working on this campaign to increase students’ understanding of how to stay safe online and help create a strong cyber workforce for the future.”

As online dependency grows, for both personal and business-related activities, individuals of all ages have become more vulnerable to cyber threats. The CIAS K–12 Cybersecurity Program, which initially began with its popular Cyber Threat Defender collectible card game, uses both low-tech tools, such as card games, worksheets and stories, and high tech options with free electronic games to increase access for underrepresented students. 

Cyber Threat Defender, a tabletop card game that is now played throughout the United States and 17 countries, is designed to teach middle and high school students how to build a robust computer network while defending it from a variety of cyberattacks. Due to requests from educators for a simplified version of the game for younger students, two additional games have since been developed that aid student learning in elementary grade levels. 

“In addition to teaching children about cyberbullying, now is the time to educate students on good cyber hygiene and how to defend themselves against potential cyberattacks,” added White. “Students and families will learn together how to create a culture of cybersecurity in their daily activities. But we’ve also developed a new family of mascots to help families and teachers engage young ones in the process.” 


The CyBear family helps children navigate cybersecurity through stories and interactive worksheets that cover topics ranging from online safety and cyber defense strategies to encoding and decoding messages. Each member of the CyBear family is named after a person, both past and present, that has had a significant impact on the fields of technology and cybersecurity. 

The assortment of tools and resources available through the CIAS K–12 Cybersecurity Program are available at no cost to K–12 educators. Complementary classroom boxes of the cybersecurity card games are available to teachers, and the electronic games and worksheets are also available as free downloads. These resources are also available to the public as low cost and no cost options.

Julina Macy

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