West Virginia Partners with SANS Institute to Offer Cybersecurity Training to High School Girls


CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Jim Justice today announced a new cybersecurity training partnership between the State and the SANS Institute. GirlsGoCyberStart​, a free online game of discovery, provides high school girls in West Virginia who are interested in a cybersecurity career with a tool to learn basic cybersecurity skills and test their cyber aptitude. Registration for GirlsGoCyberStart will be available January 29 - February 16, 2018 and the program will run from February 20-25, 2018.  

“I am very excited to announce this partnership with the SANS Institute which gives our high school girls the opportunity to explore the field of cybersecurity,” said Governor Justice.  “Due to the increased use of technology, this field of study is becoming essential in all businesses, including government. Therefore, encouraging our state’s young students to pursue this training will benefit our state tremendously.”

Students from West Virginia who excel in the GirlsGoCyberStart program will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience and win prizes, including the grand prize of an all-expense paid trip to the Women in CyberSecurity Conference in Chicago. Students may participate from home or school, a computer and internet connection are the only tools required. The three schools in West Virginia that have the most participants will win awards of $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000. 

"The GirlsGoCyberStart program will spark ingenuity and critical thinking for girls in a new and exciting way, and I am thrilled to see this partnership come to fruition," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. "The program is another example of the opportunities we can provide the students of the Mountain State when agencies and organizations work together."
“Our office is excited to work with the Department of Education and the Governor’s Office in announcing this initiative, Deputy CTO of the West Virginia Office of Technology, Cindy Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity for West Virginia’s young ladies to gain interest in a growing field.”
“GirlsGoCyberStart will help change the way our next generation of women look at Cyber Security careers added Danielle Cox, Cyber Security Manager for Audits and Compliance in the West Virginia Office of Technology. “It emphasizes the need for problem solving and critical thinking. Students do not need to have programming knowledge or extensive computer skills to participate in this program.”

When asked why SANS is partnering with West Virginia in GirlsGoCyberStart program, SANS Director of Research, Alan Paller said, “Because the nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals, and we have new evidence that CyberStart radically improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field.  Further, the two best cyber intrusion analysts I have ever met were named Vicki and Judy, but women are woefully underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity. By opening CyberStart to tens of thousands of high school girls we may be able to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

Girls may play alone or in teams of up to 4 people 
No prior experience with IT or security is needed. All girls in grades 9 to 12 are invited to play; prizes will be awarded in each grade group. 
Prizes include Dell Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi computers and other cool techie things as well as gift certificates.  In addition, each member of the top teams, nationally, will win all expense paid trips to the Women in CyberSecurity Conference (WiCyS) in Chicago along with a parent for each winner.
You may participate from home or from school or from both. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.
Each player starts as a “cyber protection agent” responsible for protecting an important operational base.  The student chooses and solves challenges, earning points along the way.  A cyber protection agent field manual provides answers to questions that may arise and hints help when players get stuck.  When the player has solve a sufficient number challenges at one level, a new level opens up and new challenges appear – for a total of 31 layers.  Experienced players call GirlsGoCyberStart “addictive” and say it is particularly good because everyone can excel, not just a few superstars.

For eligibility and GirlsGoCyberStart information, please visit https://girlsgocyberstart.com/.

Contact Information

Butch Antolini, Butch.Antolini@wv.gov


Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:

Flag Status


Banner Images Courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Commerce

Site Map