Lincroft, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – With so many companies vulnerable to data breaches, the world of cybersecurity is tapping into a new demographic: Girls.

A new challenge is inspiring students to pursue a career path in online security.

“Here I’m trying to help a fake organization improve the security of their server. That should make it harder to hack into the server,” one student said.

The students are preparing for a test.

(Credit: CBS2)

High Technology High School participates in the Girls Go CyberStart Challenge. It’s a game exclusively for girls ages 13-18.

“I feel in love with coding because its putting puzzle pieces together to form what you imagine into something real.  I fell in love with Girls Go CyberStart because it is coding but also using it in a way to protect and save.  So its got that super hero theme,” said junior Ora Alao.

Less than 20 percent of cyber security specialists are women. The Girls Go CyberStart Challenge empowers young women to pursue a career in computer science.

“I think it helped me understand that it’s OK to fail some time,” said senior Annie Zhou. “Going through the bugging program and spending hours looking at failed code I realize that it’s OK to get it wrong the first time.  What’s more important is that you learn for the next time.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says cyber security jobs will grow by 28 percent over the next five years. One professional created a game to find the brightest minds.

“There is a shortage of a special kind of cybersecurity person.  Someone with the capacity to solve really hard problems,” Girls Go CyberStart creator Alan Paller. “What the country needs is a pipeline to find people who can solve really hard problems.  That’s what the game identifies.”

Last year, 100 New Jersey high schools competed. Twenty one girls had scores that qualify them for a $500 college scholarship. Soon, our most critical assets will be protected by a cyber workforce like this one.

The girls-only challenge can be accessed for three months starting Dec. 2. To sign up, click here.

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