Seaford students learn real-world applications in cybersecurity course


At Seaford High School, students are learning some of the latest computer skills in the district’s new cybersecurity class.

The course, which started in the fall, was designed by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit organization that develops science, technology, engineering and math curriculum for schools around the country. According to Steven Roveto, who teaches the class, Seaford is the second district on Long Island to offer the cybersecurity course.

The class comprises 25 boys — It’s also open to girls, but none signed up — in 10th through 12th grades, who are led by an online guide and work in groups to solve problems and complete projects.

“I enjoy it,” Roveto said of the program. “They're a good group of kids and they work pretty hard.”

Students learn the basics of cybersecurity, which includes protection of personal devices as well as system and network security. They are taught about data protection for social media and emails, and laptop configurations for securing personal information.

Currently, Roveto explained, they are learning about coding, and how to use it to prevent cybersecurity attacks. They learn to identify malicious processes, such as unauthorized users in a system, and how to terminate any programs the hackers install.

While computer science courses can be complex, Roveto said, the students have been progressing well. Sophomore Jonathan DiPietro said he enjoys the class, adding that Roveto makes it a fun environment in which he and his classmates learn to identify scams.

“It really opened my eyes to, like, what goes on, and how easy it is to hack people and get information from them based off of just a simple post,” DiPietro said.

Senior Timothy Talty said he took the course because he’s interested in technology and social media.

“It’s going great,” he said. “I do struggle at times. It’s hard to stay focused, but it’s intriguing.”

The course poses real-world problems to the students so they can apply what they learn. In one scenario, they acted as security officers for a water treatment facility that had been hacked, and they were tasked with finding the malware in the system, eliminating it and restoring the facility’s normal operations.

“It's kind of cool that the kids get to see why cybersecurity is so relevant,” Roveto said.

When a real-world incident occurs, such as the cyberattack on MGM Resorts in Las Vegas last September, Roveto said, he discusses the news in class, and goes over how the attack happened and how it could have been prevented. He said he uses major news stories to show his students why data security is important.

In one class, Roveto used a suspicious email he had received, claiming to be from the United States Postal Service, as a lesson in security. He made a screenshot of the email and asked the students to identify any red flags. They pointed out typographical errors, and the absence of a government email address. With examples like this one, Roveto said, students are seeing the practical applications of what they’re studying.

Some have presented their own experiences with scams. “One of them went on vacation, and tried to join the Wi-Fi network there, and got a really weird message,” Roveto said. “He screenshot it and brought it into the class when he came back, and we looked at that. So it’s pretty interesting. They definitely saw the real-world implications.”

Some of the students, he said, have expressed an interest in pursuing careers in cybersecurity. He said he hoped the class would grow, because it provides so much useful information on identifying scams and protecting digital information.

And as it grows, Roveto added, he would like to see a mix of boys and girls in the future. “I’d love to build the program for both boys and girls,” he said. “That's going to be one of my biggest things, is making sure that enrollment for the girls is getting up there as well.”