In the future, who will protect America from ransomware cyberattacks like the one that crippled Colonial Pipeline in May?
Chances are, it will be someone like Braden Holmes, a Nease High School senior who recently attended the U.S. Advanced Cyber Academy.
In fact, the pipeline attack was one of the topics discussed at the academy, a weeklong educational program held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
“It was really fun,” Braden said. “I met a lot of people that were all incredibly nice. It was run very well. The instructors were very knowledgeable on the topics we were talking about.”
Braden is involved in his school’s CyberPatriot team and is the unit STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) commander with the Nease NJROTC. When he saw an opportunity to attend the academy, he signed up.
The program is specifically designed for trainees who have a passion for computer technology. Braden spent the week building computers and networks, learning how to defend systems from cyberattacks and meeting professionals in the field of cybersecurity.
“We’d go in the morning and mostly learn about different fields of cybersecurity and how that applies to recent events in the real world,” he said. “Then, we’d move into more hands-on stuff — working with programming and other things that are very useful skills going into that career field.”
But he said he learned the most when he got to speak with people who already worked in the field.
Braden is planning to apply to colleges in a couple of months, and he’s got his eye on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
“They have a great master’s program in cybersecurity,” he explained.
He has looked into the U.S. Air Force, which he said has a very good program on the topic and offers a good career path, but ultimately decided he does not have a strong interest in joining the military.
Braden said he was inspired by his father, Don Holmes, who has his own cybersecurity business.
“I kind of grew up around his work, and I just find it incredibly interesting,” Braden said. “The way everything operates and just, in general, everything that they do I just find incredibly cool.”
As Braden researched the field his interest grew, and he began to attend camps that allowed him to learn more. In fact, he recently attended a weeklong, virtual CyberPatriot advance camp. CyberPatriot competition teaches participants the basics of hardening — making sure there are no entrance points or vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious third parties.
Braden praised the experience he had with the U.S. Advanced Cyber Academy.
“If anyone asked me about it, I’d definitely recommend it to them if they’re interested in the field,” he said.
To learn more, go to www.spacecamp.com or call 1-800-637-7223.