MITRE Prepares for a Second Wave of Cyber Futures Interns

By Molly Manchenton

There’s a nationwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals—one that starts at the college level. And MITRE is doing something about it.

With an emphasis on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs), we’re recruiting college undergraduates for our 2022 Cyber Futures Internship program after a successful inaugural year. The paid internships expose students to career paths in cybersecurity.

Each participant gets hands-on experience taking on real-world cybersecurity challenges. But it’s not all work: They also get to meet and make friends with the hundreds of other interns that MITRE hires each year.

Why focus on these schools?

“There is clear demand for cyber talent throughout the federal government and critical infrastructure,” says Wen Masters, MITRE vice president, cyber technologies. “Increasing the diversity of those teams will improve security and fuel innovation. Doing so is critical to advancing MITRE’s cyber mission. And it broadens opportunity nationwide.”

In 2021, the Department of Commerce reported that approximately 465,000 cybersecurity jobs in the United States were unfilled, in addition to 36,000 public-sector cyber jobs in federal, state, and local governments.

Cyber Futures, a first-of-its kind initiative at MITRE, is designed to spark students’ interest in cybersecurity careers in support of national security. We launched the program in 2021 in partnership with Prelude, an organization that develops cybersecurity tools for small- to medium-size companies, helping users evaluate and protect their organizations against attacks.

Securing Connections with Tomorrow’s Cyber Professionals

The 2021 Cyber Futures 24-student group completed a 10-week experiential, competitively paid internship. In the months following the conclusion of the inaugural program, half of those interns returned to MITRE to pursue additional projects.

The students come from a range of technology majors—including computer engineering, software engineering, and cybersecurity. However, the curricula vary from one institution to another. That’s why the Cyber Futures experience offers a clear understanding of how classroom lessons apply when you’re faced with actual cyber challenges.

Students also meet experts who act as mentors, says Leslie Anderson, Cyber Futures program leader. “Interns leave the program with access to a new network of professionals to tap into post-graduation, along with technical skills to add to their resume.”

The Cyber Futures program provides a balance of training, project work, and mentorship over the course of 10 weeks. Students collaborate with cybersecurity experts from MITRE and Prelude to participate in seminars, receive training, and gain experience through government-funded capstone projects.

Participating government agencies benefit from an early recruiting opportunity and exposure to students’ innovative capstone project work—ranging from operational to cyber-physical to policy and planning. 

Cyber Futures Interns: A “Home Run” for the Nation

Prelude’s founder and CEO, Spencer Thompson, reiterates that “bringing students together with a diverse range of prior disciplines allows them to learn from one other and bring fresh perspectives to national cyber defense. This is necessary not just for success through this internship but for forward progress in the broader industry.” Prelude plays a vital role in the program by focusing on cyber fundamentals and providing an intensive introduction to offensive security via its Operator platform.

Anderson says that the program is about more than recruiting for MITRE. “We are naturally thrilled if our talented interns return to MITRE,” she says. “But a home run—the ultimate goal—is when interns secure front-line cyber positions with federal agencies.”

MITRE is now working with university, philanthropic, and government organizations to build an even more robust program in 2022. Cyber Futures will run June through August at the following MITRE locations: McLean, Virginia; Bedford, Massachusetts; and Hampton, Virginia. 

The number one job requirement, Anderson says, is a passion to learn and the drive to solve problems for a safer world.

Representatives of federal agencies interested in learning how to get involved with the initiative can email for more information.