Nationally-recognized center teaches Girl Scouts cybersecurity

Professor Patricia Tamburelli writes on a Magic Slate. She erases the writing by lifting the cover, but the word is still on the pad. It’s a cybersecurity lesson for these Girl Scouts.

“So that’s a good thing to keep in mind, that whenever you save something, whenever you do something, whenever you’re using some type of electronics — a phone, an iPad, a computer — you save something, you do something, and if you delete it, it’s not really deleted,” Tamburelli said.

Tamburelli and her husband Joe co-founded the County College of Morris Center for Cyber Security. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security recognize it as a center of academic excellence in cyber defense education.

That’s why the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey are partnering with the college. It launched 30 new national badges — nine for cybersecurity — that the girls can earn.

The goal is to introduce these young minds not just for their personal safety but perhaps as career goals.

“Today marks the start of our joint effort to open the doors of opportunity for young ladies and women to excel in the world of cybersecurity, to open the doors of STEM to them as well,” said Dr. Anthony Iacono, County College of Morris president.

“If you don’t see it, you can’t be it. And so this gives girls tremendous door-opening opportunities,” said parent Shanna Jafri.

“I think this is just wonderful to encourage more girls in to this field which has been more predominantly male dominant,” said parent Lilie Donahue.

That means opportunity to the Girl Scouts, which cited census statistics.

“Women make up nearly 50 percent of the working population but only 26 percent of the STEM field. In addition, research shows that diverse teams always have better results. Just consider that women makeup 50 percent of the college-educated workforce, yet only comprise of 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce. Moreover, in 1990, women were 35 percent of the computer science majors in college and now only 25 percent. Current projects point to a global cybersecurity workforce deficit of 1.8 million individuals in the next 5 years,” said Charisse Taylor, chief program officer for the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.

Joe Tamburelli says based on his career in law enforcement, cybersecurity and 36 years of marriage, females are better at working in cybersecurity.

“I think they’re more inquisitive than men are. They have a need to know, so they ask questions and they keep asking questions,” he said.

“He calls me nosy, but I like how he says ‘need to know’ for every one else,” Patricia joked.

Among the first lessons the Tamburellis will teach the girl scouts is how to practice safety in the cyber world.

“There’s so much crime out there. Unfortunately, security came after the technology,” Joe said.

A lesson too many have learned the hard way. But one day maybe these girls will improve cybersecurity for all.