December 20, 2020


How can they know they’re capable if they can’t try? A first of its kind, this Cyber Challenge is Girl Scouts of the USA’s national STEM challenge that provides a positive space where girls can not only gain confidence, but also a glimpse into the world of cybersecurity. Young girls were introduced to cybersecurity lingo and tactics as well team building techniques as they navigated an incident response scenario.


The Girl Scouts Cyber Challenge is the Girl Scouts of the USA’s first-ever national STEM challenge event, developed and sponsored by Raytheon Technologies. On October 19, 2019, thousands of girls across 10 U.S. cities solved a hypothetical ransomware attack on a moon base, cultivating key cybersecurity skills with support from Raytheon Technologies’ volunteers and mentors.

Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia was one of ten councils selected to pilot the Cyber Challenge event, thanks in part through generous support from Raytheon Technologies. In recognition of October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the Cyber Institute at Augusta University’s School of Computer and Cyber Sciences took this great opportunity to be a catalyst, partner, and host for this event. Over 125 Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors, (girls ranging from 6th-12th grades), as well as 25 troop leaders from across the state of Georgia participated in this inaugural event at the Georgia Cyber Center in downtown Augusta, Georgia.

Augusta University and Augusta Technical College classrooms were transformed as stations, where Girl Scouts were enlisted to help with a hypothetical hack that occurred on a moon colony. Participants were part of an incident response team that must find out who hacked the system and how to stop them. Details and materials were developed months before the event by Raytheon Technologies and information webinars were conducted with Girl Scout staff and members from each council outlining the plan to ensure a successful implementation. The Challenge activities were designed as “plugged” and “unplugged” stations for up to 20 girls to rotate thru. Girls were introduced to the Moon Base scenario playing the role of being on boarded to their new positions on the Moon Base. Each girl was given Investigation files, and a Cybersecurity Field Manual, which included common cybersecurity terms and was used to guide them as they solved the challenges at each Station. Girls learned that the Moon Base had a serious cybersecurity breach and it was up to their “incident response teams” to investigate the attack. While some of the activities were a learning stretch – depending on the girl’s age and technology experience – all girls were introduced to cryptography techniques, cybersecurity investigation procedures, phishing, and incident response procedures. If teams were stuck on an assignment and needed help, they were given a coin to request up to three consults at each Station. At the end of each Station, girls reported their findings on their team Incident Response Data Log and certificates were awarded at the end of the day based on how many flags were entered correctly into the Investigation Database.


As a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, Augusta University seeks opportunities for outreach in cybersecurity education. Partnering with the Girl Scouts is a smart choice for the university community to introduce more girls to the STEM and cybersecurity fields. The Girl Scout Cyber Challenge, held in the Georgia Cyber Center was a perfect space to hold the event, giving the girls a glimpse of a “real-world” experience in a facility designed for teamwork. The Georgia Cyber Center is a unique public/private collaboration among academia, state, federal and local government, law enforcement, the U.S. Army and the private sector. With two adjacent buildings totaling 332,000 square feet, the Georgia Cyber Center, located on the Nathan Deal Campus for Innovation, is designed to meet the growing need for cybersecurity talent in Georgia, the nation, and across the globe.


Karen Ribble: