Brad Little


Gov. Brad Little announced Friday a new partnership between the state of Idaho and the SANS Institute, a for-profit company that provides cybersecurity training for government and commercial clients.

The partnership allows Idaho high school girls to participate in a game, Girls Go CyberStart, which introduces them to cybersecurity topics and encourages them to explore interests in cyber studies, learn cybersecurity skills and build confidence in problem-solving, according to a governor’s office news release.

Idaho is one of 26 U.S. states participating in the Girls Go CyberStart initiative.

Idaho’s partnership with the SANS Institute, which is also supported by Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho STEM Action Center, is meant to “inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and identify talented youth across Idaho,” the news release said.

Ethan Huffman, an INL spokesman, said the lab has a long relationship with the SANS Institute. SANS brought the Girls Go CyberStart to the attention of INL officials, who in turn suggested to the Governor that Idaho adopt the program, Huffman said.

The partnership comes at no cost to the state, according to a governor’s spokesperson.

“My administration is focused on advancing Idaho’s education system so our talented young students have the opportunity to pursue technical careers in Idaho and beyond,” Little said in the news release. “Initiatives such as Girls Go CyberStart allow Idaho to partner with world-leading experts to develop the next generation of cybersecurity leaders and innovators.”

The game introduces students to a range of cybersecurity topics, such as cryptography, web vulnerabilities, Python, Linux and forensics. Participants solve challenges to gain points and advance through levels, earning prizes along the way, such as trips, gift certificates and computers.

No prior experience is required.

There are financial incentives for participants and their schools. Participants are eligible to win a $500 scholarship for the college of their choice.

The three Idaho schools with the most participants win monetary prizes.

More than 6,600 high school girls played Girls Go CyberStart in 2018.

“The nation desperately needs more highly skilled cyber professionals, and we have evidence that CyberStart improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field,” SANS Institute’s director of research Alan Paller said in the news release. “By opening CyberStart to thousands of girls in high school, we hope to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

Registration is open for Girls Go CyberStart through March 20. To register, you must be enrolled in a public or private high school, you must identify as female and you must have been at least 13 years old on Feb. 18, 2019.

To register, visit

Reporter Ryan Suppe can be reached at 208-542-6762. Follow him on Twitter: @salsuppe.