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The student news site of Amador Valley High School


The student news site of Amador Valley High School


The student news site of Amador Valley High School


Karan Gupta (‘24) and CSIgnited: An accessible approach to cybersecurity

Leo He
Karan Gupta (’24) founded CSIgnited to increase accessibility to cybersecurity resources.

In his sophomore year, Karan Gupta (‘24) looked for a beginner-friendly platform to learn cybersecurity but found resources painfully limited. The lack of an accessible curriculum inspired Gupta to put his skills to work and found his own cybersecurity platform, Cyber@CSIgnited.

Identifying a Need

“The thing is, in the existing landscape, there’s no one resource that really teaches you cybersecurity. There’s nothing great for beginners,” said Gupta.

After joining Amador’s Cybersecurity Club in his freshman year, Gupta discovered that many students equated cybersecurity with coding. In reality, cybersecurity encompasses a much broader spectrum of skills and knowledge. 

“Nobody had any exposure to it [even] in a community like Pleasanton, where tech and STEM research are endless,” said Gupta.

Seeking to go beyond the introduction he’d gained in the club, Gupta turned his focus to online courses. However, he found that most online cybersecurity resources were aimed toward highly niche audiences or professionals, impossible for a beginner to follow. 

“Some resources will be only hands-on stuff. Then you’re missing context. You just get good at really small skills, and have nothing tied together. Other will be a whole lot of text, which obviously is not good for cybersecurity,” said Gupta

While Amador is fortunate enough to have a designated cybersecurity class and club, it’s still far from being a widely known field.

“There’s very limited exposure at the lower level,” said Gupta. “And a lot of other schools don’t even have [clubs and classes].”

Founding CSIgnited

In May of 2021, Gupta took things into his own hands and founded CSIgnited. CSIgnited is an online cybersecurity platform that provides a beginner-friendly curriculum to learn cybersecurity. It breaks down complex topics into easy-to-understand lessons. 

“Our content aims to make learning cybersecurity more approachable and fun,” states the website. 

Two years later, Gupta was joined by two teammates, Nicholas Shao (‘24) and Nayan Rathod (‘24). Recently, he has expanded the team to include two more people, including a business manager.

“We’ll have meetings where I’ll be like, ‘Okay, so what specific lessons do we want to talk about here?’ Within the technical team, all of us do the actual content development and make the website work,” said Gupta.

Interactive demos contextualize a text-based lesson.

To keep things fresh, Gupta integrates largely text-based lessons with hands-on activities that allow students to put their skills to the test.

“Students will read concepts and the background behind things in lessons. Then they’ll learn hands-on skills in demos, labs, and challenges. They get to apply what they’ve learned and develop their own intuition,” said Gupta.

CSIgnited also includes a blog, titled “We Don’t Byte!: A Cybersecurity Digest,” to increase discussion and interest in cybersecurity.

Managing a Company

In addition to building the site, Gupta faced no shortage of challenges in building his team and managing the organization. The process is a long learning process with plenty of trial and error. 

“We spent probably like six to seven months writing just pure text content. By the time we finished that, we realized none of our content was usable because it wasn’t compatible with the platform,” said Gupta.

With the website complete, the team’s next goal was outreach. Currently, CSIgnited partners with two schools in India to teach cybersecurity. Talks with Pleasanton’s own Harvest Park Middle School are also in progress.

“It took us probably five to six months, just to get our first school interested. You’ll email 60-70 people, and only one person will respond,” said Gupta.

Gupta estimates that managing CSIgnited took around 11 hours a week, reaching as high as 30 during the busiest times. However, he doesn’t regret the experience. 

“Building the curriculum is super fun because of all the technical and design work that goes into it, but what I’ve enjoyed most is just being able to create something that’s helping solve a real need,” said Gupta.

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