CNBC: So what you do at work stays at work?
LaFountain: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. A lot of our people still have their own home systems. They've got to keep it to what they're allowed to do on their home systems.
And actually, if I can, I'd also like to mention we've created a new program just this past summer. We've come to the realization that we need to reach back further than college to get kids interested in cybersecurity. A lot of studies show that by the eighth or ninth grade, kids are either turning to STEM or they're turning off from the STEM fields. And so we want to … want to get more of them interested cyberspace. So just this summer, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, we created a program we're calling "Gen-cyber," sponsoring cyber-related summer camps for middle and high school students and teachers around the country. We call this our prototype year. We had six camps. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. One of our camps had 172 high school students in it. I visited the camp; I talked to about 25 students. Every one of them said, 'This is great. It's better than I expected. Can't wait to come back next year.'
CNBC: What do they do in these camps?
LaFountain: What we ask the camps to do to start out is just to give students the fundamental awareness of cybersecurity so they understand the threats that are out there on the Internet and basic things that they should do to protect themselves. Some of the camps did some more technical things. Some did introduction to secure programming. Another program did an introduction to wireless networking and wireless security. And the students are really, really into it.
CNBC: Those were eighth-graders?
LaFountain: Those students were 10th-graders that did the wireless, but it was kind of cool. Because they had all this equipment, and they did a wireless scavenger hunt, so they had backpacks using the little antennas coming out of the backpack. They're going around this college campus trying to find these rogue access points that had been set up. So it really was just giving them a good introduction to that technology, which is an important technology today. So that's a program we hope to grow in the coming years. To eventually reach out to all 50 states, I hope.
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CNBC: How many students do you think you need to pull into the NSA in order to keep the pipeline flowing?
LaFountain: My estimate would be for the specific skill areas that I'm trying to build, it's in the small hundreds. And that's why you know in our program we intend to keep the number of schools fairly small. We're thinking maybe 20, 25 schools will be enough to provide the pipeline of students that we need.
CNBC: And what are the specific things that they're learning inside that program? What you need them to know?
LaFountain: Well, so for example, low-level programming. Programming in assembly language, programming in the C programming language. That is really the language that is at the guts of operating systems. That's where most cybersecurity vulnerabilities are. That's where most exploits are performed. And that's the area that schools have gotten away from because that's not where the big visible jobs are today. Today it's all in mobile programming, Web programming.
CORRECTION; The proper name of the NSA program is the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.