Cyber Safety and Cyber Security Protect Computer Systems and Youth

By Miller, Steven E. | Momentum, April/May 2005 | Go to article overview

Cyber Safety and Cyber Security Protect Computer Systems and Youth


Miller, Steven E., Momentum


Cyber safety is about what people can do to protect themselves.

Cyber security creates a safe place in which students and staff can learn and work.

It is the job of the adults in a young person's life to make sure that the child knows to cross a major intersection only when the walk sign is lit. It is also an adult responsibility to make sure that there is a functioning traffic light system at major intersections.

The same thing is true in cyberspace. It is the job of administrators, teachers and parents to make sure that students know how to behave online to ensure their own safety. Some students may not have yet formed the moral and legal capacity to judge what is acceptable. It also is the school's job to ensure that the computer system used by the child (and by adults) is secure and functional.

Cyber safety is about what people can do to protect themselves. Cyber security goes a step further. It is about what schools and other organizations must do to protect the overall electronic environment, to create a safe place in which students and staff can learn and work. Security is about keeping information systems operational, protecting the privacy of the data they contain, preventing the deliberate misuse of school resources and avoiding liability. Good security protects the safety of staff and students, contributes to the educational mission and maintains community support.

Cyber Safety

Security goes hand-in-hand with safety consciousness. Students need to know that they should never give out personal information to anyone they've met online or in response to seemingly authentic email inquiries. They need to know not to open email from anyone whose name isn't recognizable, to disregard advertisements no matter how enticing the offer, and to not open any email attachments without first saving them to disk. They need to know there is no one in another country interested in giving them money. They need to know how to back out of inappropriate Web sites and the pop-up ads that appear on their screen. They need to know that many Web sites are glorified advertisements with hidden backdoor traps that secretly load malicious software onto every visitor's computer. They need to know not to share their passwords with others.

Almost all of the inappropriate material that comes via email is commercially motivated. The pop-up ads that appear when we visit certain Web sites are commercial and can be somewhat controlled by anti-pop-up software. Systems also suffer from hidden "adware," programs that have been secretly loaded onto computers and repeatedly display advertisements. Many programs now available, some of which are "freeware," can increase security by helping locate and eliminate these intruders as well as the "spyware" that secretly records keystrokes and sends the information to outsider vendors-or criminals.

The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires schools to install content filters to prevent inappropriate materials from entering school computers, but no filter is 100 percent effective. Unfortunately, there is no technology sophisticated enough to stop all possible "malware" and inappropriate content. Neither is it possible for an adult to directly supervise everything a child does on a computer. So it is vital that teachers and parents teach students what to do when they bump into inappropriate content-when to report things to the teacher, how to back out of an undesirable site, and why this kind of junk is being sent to them in the first place.

Securing the System

Individual actions cannot keep children safe if the entire environment is insecure. Indeed, as technology becomes more ubiquitous and complex, the number and variety of its vulnerabilities also increases. The SANS Institute, which provides Internet security training, estimates that up to 3,000 hacking programs are running over the Internet at all times looking for exploitable openings. …

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Cyber Safety and Cyber Security Protect Computer Systems and Youth
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