During the late 1990's into the 21st century, the Internet became a worldwide phenomenon boasting the instantaneous communication of geographically separated persons. In the years to come, systems like medical databases and nuclear power plants quickly became "Internet facing," offering their services to those who needed access. But most system administrators were more concerned with availability and not security. What became apparent to researchers and "hackers" were the inherent security risks within these systems and the communication protocols they used. The exploitation of vulnerabilities became and underground hobby, gaining unauthorized access to various government and commercial systems.
In 2006 the United States Air Force developed and established policy naming "Cyberspace" as the fifth war fighting domain (along with land, sea, air, and space) and implement the first cyber command structure. Finally in 2009 after the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) was stood up as a sub-unified combatant command, the 24th Air Force was stood up to spearhead all USAF cyberspace operations. But it quickly became apparent that the pipeline for trained "cyber warriors" was incredibly thin.
In response to the growing need, the Air Force Association planned and executed a proof of concept at the 2009 Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida and tested 9 high school Civil Air Patrol teams on their knowledge of cyber security. This proof of concept later materialized into the CyberPatriot program where over 400 Civil Air Patrol teams registered to compete in 2014. Civil Air Patrol helped get the CyberPatriot program off the runway, but it became clear that CAP needed a strategy to prepare our cadets not only to be successful in CyberPatriot, but also in a cyber security career.
Then in the fall of 2014, after the successful execution of the first CAP cyber NCSA, National Headquarters created the "all volunteer" National Cadet Cyber Programs (NCCyP) team with one mission:
"Develop a cutting-edge and robust cyber-security education and training program, in efforts to prepare cadets (and seniors) for a career defending critical United States digital infrastructure."
Since then, four pillars where developed to strategize CAP's involvement in cyberspace:
- Establish and maintain an active relationship with USAF cyber units
- Establish and maintain an active relationship with commercial industry
- Educate, train, and certify CAP members in cyber security concepts
- Promote cyber defense competitions