Nationwide campaigns to steer youthful techies into careers defending the internet are gaining steam, USA Today reports. The federal government, education officials, and giant military contractors are collaborating to recruit a new class of tech professional specifically trained to battle data thieves, online scammers, and cyber spies. The recruitment tool of choice: competitions that pit tech-savvy youths in mock warfare against professional hackers. This year, the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition drew teams from 83 colleges and universities, up from five schools in 2005. Boeing hired seven contestants to help defend its internal networks, which are prime targets for corporate and military spies. A similar contest that accepts high schoolers, the US Cyber Challenge, has a goal of finding 10,000 “cyber security top guns.” Promotional materials tout bragging rights for beating bad guys. “We’re building the pipeline that will produce our future cyber guardians,” says Alan Paller, research director of SANS Institute, a co-sponsor of the event…

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