Teens Learn about Cyber Safety

Teens Learn about Cyber Safety
Professor Ruth Guthrie talks to students from Alta Loma and Brea Olinda high schools.

Nearly 50 Alta Loma High School and Brea Olinda High School students learned from the best in the country on how to protect themselves online, thanks to an outreach event sponsored in part by the Center for Information Assurance and the Computer and Information Systems (CIS) department.

As more information is available online, the CIS department is committed to helping high school students develop safe and legal behavior on the Internet. The event also showed students that there is more to computer-related careers than just staring at a screen filled with computer code. CIS graduates work for district attorney offices, where their computer forensic work helps lock up criminals. They also are employed with major companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers to ensure that their clients' personal information is out of reach of hackers.

“Not only do we teach students how to protect themselves from cyber criminals, we also let them know that when they grow up they take their interest in computers and use it to be heroes in their community,” said CIS Professor Anna Carlin, who organized the event.  

During the Oct. 22 event, the Alta Loma and Brea Olinda students received their lesson from among the very best in the world: a member of the National Security Agency (NSA), a federal organization that protects the government's information systems network.

As an NSA-certified Center of Academic Excellence, the CIS department and the university have a special relationship with NSA. Members of the federal agency regularly visit campus to help improve CIS's cyber security curriculum, talk to CIS students and recruit graduating seniors to work for the NSA.

Ken Shotting of the NSA told teens how to create passwords that are less likely to be hacked and introduced them to cryptology, the process of deciphering and enciphering secret codes. Also, in an age where young people are accustomed to getting their music, movies and newspapers for free, Shotting stressed to the students there is a difference between ethics and the law. Just because something is legal, does not mean it is ethical. It is up to the students to use their own judgment and morals, he said.

By the time students reach high school, many of them have received lectures about online safety. Todd Saleski, an instructor at Brea Olinda's Global Information Technology Academy, believes that students should never stop hearing about cyber security.

“It has to be an ongoing lesson,” Saleski said. “They have to hear it from people other than their teachers, especially those who are experts in the outside world.”  

The event also was sponsored by the Regional Information Systems Security Center (RISSC) at Mt. San Antonio College, Cal Poly Pomona's Center for Academic Excellence in Intelligence Community and the Foothill Chapter of the IEEE Professional Association. The Center for Information Assurance was made possible partly through a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant awarded to Cal Poly Pomona and a consortium of other California State University campuses and community colleges. The goal of the grant is to encourage students to pursue careers in cyber security, also known as information assurance.