Girls Learn About Online Safety and Digital Careers at GenCyber Camp

Keith Lockhart

Jul 13 2017

AccessData had the privilege of teaching a series of hands-on labs to educate students about digital forensics at the 2017 GenCyber: Girls in CybHER Security camp at Dakota State University (DSU). DSU’s third annual girls camp, which was held last month, is the largest residential girls-only camp of its kind in the nation, hosting 112 girls in 7th, 8th and 9th grades.

This is the second consecutive year that we’ve partnered with GenCyber and DSU, alongside fellow sponsors Citi and Google. GenCyber is a unique program created by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) that consists of camps in locations across the U.S. The program is designed to increase interest in cybersecurity careers and diversity in the cybersecurity workforce, help students understand correct and safe on-line behavior, and improve teaching methods for delivering cybersecurity content for K-12 programs. Through grants from the NSA and NSF, along with other sponsors, the camps are free for participants.

AccessData’s Justin Tolman taught the girls about two different aspects of digital forensics. One lab dealt with how to find where a photo had been taken, the second one dealt with social media platforms. Justin explained to the students that 60 billion text messages are sent daily through Facebook Messenger and What’s App, another 20 billion text messages are sent daily through SMS.

“Be careful with what information and what content you send out,” he cautioned the girls. He also recommended a “level of trust between you and the person you are sending to because there is a lot of information you don’t see behind the scenes that is transferred with that message.” He also noted that, even if a photo or message is deleted and you can no longer see it on your screen, the information can still be stored in a database for a long time.

Makayla Simmermon of Colton, S.D., was one of the girls at the camp and said she was amazed to see that, even though a photo had been deleted a year and a half earlier, there were still at least two pictures out there online. “It’s both scary and cool,” she said, adding that, “it is a warning to think about the pictures and posts you send.”

We also had the opportunity to educate the girls about the fast-growing field of digital forensics and the tremendous career paths that are being cultivated for women in the industry. “If you get into mobile forensics, you will do everything involved with collecting, preserving and analyzing mobile device data,” Justin explained. He even encouraged the girls to go out and develop their own software tools to supplement those that are on the market now.

DSU was a terrific host for this important event. Dakota State has a broad national reputation for providing a dynamic, technology-rich learning and research environment for its students, and for others through outreach programs such as the GenCyber camps. For more information on Dakota State University’s cyber programs visit or

As it happened, the camp coincided with a breaking news story regarding a major cybersecurity incident that swept across Europe on June 27th. That prompted local ABC affiliate KSFY to come to the DSU campus and interview the GenCyber camp directors – Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, associate professor of digital forensics at DSU, and Pam Rowland, instructor in the College of Business and Information Systems at DSU – as well as our very own Justin Tolman. You can watch the story that aired on KSFY by clicking here.

In the camp’s closing session, the First Lady of South Dakota, Linda Daugaard, noted that women make up 57 percent of the workforce but only about 25 percent are employed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. “Girls, are we going to change that?” she asked . . . to a rousing group answer of “Yes!”

The GenCyber camp is a terrific opportunity to not only introduce young ladies to the possibility of careers in this growing field, but also to help them better understand how to keep themselves safe when using the internet. AccessData was delighted to once again partner with GenCyber and DSU so these bright students can learn more about our industry and the role of technology as a force for good in the brave new digital world.

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