Cyber Camp

High school teachers learn about cybersecurity at ECU

Dr. Te-Shun Chou explained to the class the ease at which hackers can obtain computer passwords. The class — consisting of a dozen high school teachers — sat in silence, some with mouths open in shock with how vulnerable people really are.

“It’s very dangerous, very dangerous,” said Chou, professor in East Carolina University’s Department of Technology Systems in the College of Engineering and Technology.

The class was part of a five-day GenCyber camp designed to provide high school teachers with knowledge about cybersecurity. Funded through the National Security Agency, the camp focused on cybersecurity threats and attacks, and provided participants with resources to help them design cybersecurity curricula for their classrooms.

“I wanted to know more about computers, but I thought this would be something that I could probably bring back to the school and help others with,” said William Fulton, a math teacher at Hillside High School in Durham. “I thought that it would be a good idea to learn something new, just even for my own enrichment. Cybersecurity is something important, and I thought this would be something that would benefit not just the students, but me as well.”

Sabrina Lynn King-Bowen, a math teacher at Ocracoke School, works on a cybersecurity exercise during the GenCyber camp.

As an example of the threat cyberattacks pose, Mark Webster, chief information security officer in ECU’s Information Technology and Computing Services, told participants that ransomware attacks increased 50% from 2023 to 2024, with 59% of businesses and organizations being targeted. Not all attacks were successful, but those that were cost those businesses and organizations $2.7 million.

Beyond expert speakers such as Webster, the program included theoretical discussions and hands-on activities that allowed participants to explore various aspects of cybersecurity. The teachers also created lesson plans they can incorporate into their classroom teaching.

“They gave me some ideas of how to use artificial intelligence to improve and get more out of my lesson plans,” Fulton said. “They told me about a program called Quad9. That was another way to protect the school, protect your network by checking things.”

Sabrina Lynn King-Bowen teaches math to sixth through eighth graders at Ocracoke School in Hyde County and serves as the school’s instructional technology facilitator. She came away from the camp with one major lesson.

“Awareness — the awareness of the risk and the need for students to realize what they’re clicking could harm them, to be very careful,” she said. “It’s been eye-opening to me. I had no idea.”

She said her message to her students will be to extend online protection beyond the walls of the school.

“I’m not so concerned about their school devices. I’m concerned about their home use of cell phones,” King-Bowen said. “They get on social media and they click on ads not knowing and how easy it is for cyberattacks.”

Along with Chou, Dr. Biwu Yang, professor in the Department of Technology Systems, and Dr. Xi Lin, associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Professions in the College of Education, served as instructors. The GenCyber camp took place in the Cybersecurity Analysis and Action Center inside ECU’s Science and Technology Building. The center serves as a lab for ECU’s information and cybersecurity degree program. The National Security Agency has designated ECU’s cybersecurity program as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (NCAE-CD) since 2005.

Fulton said he got everything he wanted from the camp.

“Just in the first day, I already got something great out of the session,” he said. “I love the folks that are here. It makes you feel very, very welcome. It’s not just the information. It’s been the whole experience. It’s been a really nice experience.”