A national competition was launched on Monday to identify the next generation of cybersecurity experts.

The competition, called Cyber Foundations, is open to high school students and features a series of timed quizzes that test aptitude in three key cybersecurity areas: networking, operating systems and system administration. The SANS Institute will provide students with training materials and tutorials about each of the subject areas.

Top-scoring students in each school and state will be eligible for scholarships and other prizes.

“Our country has no systematic means of developing very technical cyber guardians,” Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, told SCMagazineUS.com in an email Monday. “This program will provide the type of education high schools don't yet offer and allow talented kids to get recognition and feel great about continuing to excel in this important area.”

The competition is an initiative of the U.S. Cyber Challenge program, a division of the nonprofit Center for Internet Security, focused on developing America's cybersecurity talent. The goal of the U.S. Cyber Challenge is to find 10,000 American cybersecurity practitioners and researchers. 

The United States is lacking an adequate number of individuals within the federal government and private sector with the technical skills necessary to secure cyberspace, according to a report released last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Cyber Foundations competition was piloted in California, Maryland and Rhode Island, and was officially launched this week with several other states conducting formal campaigns to encourage participation. High school students can register to participate in the competition through Feb. 18, and quizzes will take place throughout March and April.

“In a world of ever-present threats to our homeland, it is imperative that we maintain a proactive approach in safeguarding our nation's cyber infrastructure,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement. “This initiative will help prepare a new generation of students to protect critical aspects of our infrastructure and provide Texans with the resources to succeed.”