Binary code, malware, viruses, cyberattacks, and networks… your girls can learn about all these things and more with the new Girl Scout Cybersecurity badges! In August of 2018, GSUSA released K–5 Cybersecurity badges developed in partnership with Palo Alto Networks. These badges have been thoroughly tested to make sure that they are both engaging and educational for girls, and easy to deliver for Girl Scout volunteers who may not be cybersecurity experts. Troop 32749, one of the local troops that piloted these badges, was highlighted in this NBC newscast!

Girl Scouts in grades K-5 got a head start on their Cybersecurity badgework at Palo Alto Networks.
GSNorCal CEO Marina Park and Palo Alto Networks President Amit K. Singh join local troops for a cybersecurity badge day at Palo Alto Networks Headquarters.

Wondering why cybersecurity is such an important subject for girls to learn, or feeling nervous about leading the charge on a subject you might not know too much about? In the November STEM webinar, Muoi Tran Landivar, Security Awareness and Education Lead at Palo Alto Networks spoke about the new badges, and why they are so valuable to Girl Scouts and parents alike.

Why cybersecurity?

Girls are growing up in a digital era—from school work and friendships to their future careers, girls are spending more and more time online. This is a fantastic thing! There are so many more opportunities to learn and spaces to find supportive networks of friends and family on the internet. But there are also new issues and dangers they need to be aware of as they cultivate digital skills. As they play online games, browse the internet, and get active on social media, it’s critical that they understand the do’s and don’ts of being online. From not sharing passwords, to knowing never to share personal identifying information, these important safety skills need to be taught right away. Palo Alto Networks created a useful two-page list of basic skills and knowledge every girl (and adult) should know to stay safe online.

What if I’m not a cybersecurity expert?

It’s natural to feel like you’ve got a lot to learn, no matter whether you were raised with technology and the internet, or even if you’ve been in the tech industry for years! Cybersecurity is a field that is constantly changing. But by focusing on the basics, you can teach girls what they need to know without a deep technological foundation. For example, hackers can trick you by sending a phishing email. These messages have various tricks or emotional hooks to get you to click and download a virus. Teaching girls that just because an email wants a response, (Did you win something? Were your credentials stolen? Does a friend need your help?) doesn’t mean that you should click without examining the situation. The badge requirements include specific useful activities and tips that will help you know exactly what information your girls need to learn.

If your troop is craving more information, reach out to an expert in the field of cybersecurity! Ask troop parents, friends, relatives, or even fellow Girl Scout leaders on the GSNorCal Volunteers Facebook page! Not only can they share their expertise, but bringing in adults who are successful in this field shows girls that there are exciting careers related to their new interest. The cybersecurity community is very welcoming—everyone wants to help and share more about what they do, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

How does my troop get started?

Each age level (Daisy, Brownie, and Junior) has 3 badges: Basics, where you learn the fundamentals of cybersecurity, Safeguards, which show girls what next steps they need to take, and Investigator, where girls will put their new knowledge and skills into practice. Cybersecurity Badges for 6–12th grades will be released in Fall 2019, so stay tuned!

All of these badges can all be done “unplugged,” meaning you don’t have to have special kits or electronics to complete them, but you can use a computer or smart device for some of the steps if you choose. Check out a brief overview of each badge below:

Daisy Badges (3 steps per badge)

Badge 1: BasicsBadge 2: SafeguardsBadge 3: Investigator
When girls earn this badge, they will know how computers work and how to stay safe online.When girls earn this badge, they will know what privacy is and how to protect their identity.When girls earn this badge, they will know how to use their powers of observation to investigate.

Brownie Badges (3 steps per badge)

Badge 1: BasicsBadge 2: SafeguardsBadge 3: Investigator
When girls earn this badge, they will know the basics of cybersecurity and understand the role technology plays in their life.When girls earn this badge, they will know what information about themselves is private and how to share information safely.When girls earn this badge, they will know how to use investigative skills to spot problems in the cyber world.

Junior Badges (5 steps per badge)

Badge 1: BasicsBadge 2: SafeguardsBadge 3: Investigator
When girls earn this badge, they will know the basics of cybersecurity and how computers communicate.When girls earn this badge, they will know how to protect their online identity and stay safe online.When girls earn this badge, they will know how computers use codes to communicate and how to spot cyber crime.

To start earning the badges for your troop’s level, you can purchase the badge booklets in person or online at the GSNorCal shop. Then head over to the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) for background information, glossaries, and meeting tips. Make sure you review all the resources, as they work together to create the best possible learning plan for your girls!

With these resources and a little STEM confidence under your belt, you’re ready to introduce your girls to the wide world of cybersecurity, ensuring they can happily surf the web for years to come (not to mention inspiring some future tech CEOs!) Has your troop earned any of these badges yet? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

What to do next:

  • Looking for related reads? Check out our other STEM-themed blog posts on The Trailhead.
  • On the GSNorCal Learning Portal, you can listen to the STEM Monthly Webinar that corresponds to this content, and find other resources to help your troop earn the cybersecurity badges.
  • Visit the GSNorCal STEM Learning Portal for STEM Journey overviews, past webinar recordings, and helpful resources on a variety of STEM topics.
  • Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors can get a head start on the cybersecurity badges at Digital Cookie Day at the start of each Cookie Season! Try out the cybersecurity activity at your local GSNorCal office and earn a free cyber hero patch.
  • There are more helpful STEM webinars on the horizon! There are five webinars left, taking place every third Thursday from 7–8 PM. Register today:

Jean Fahy, M.Ed—Jean is the STEM Program Director for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she and her team partner with experts and volunteers throughout the council to offer unique STEM experiences to girls. She has taught math and science at elementary through high school and has spent many summers as Girl Scout Camp staff sharing her love of nature with girls. When she is not involved in Girl Scout activities, she loves to hike in the Oakland hills and camp in the Sierras with her family and dog, Tyler.

Brenda Gabel—Brenda is the Program Director, Partnerships for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she works with many corporate, community, and university partners to support our hands-on STEAM programs for girls through the help of amazing mentors and role model volunteers. During the past 12 years with GSNorCal she has worked in many capacities from working with youth leading hands-on science programs in the classroom to leading well-being programs at local shelters and now directing programs. In her spare time she is a kitty mom, gardener, amateur chef, and loves spending time outdoors.

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