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INI Teaches Online Safety to Cub Scouts

August 04, 2011

"What is cyberspace?" Dena Haritos Tsamitis, director of the INI, asked the twenty-five young members of Allegheny Valley's Cub Scout Pack 554. They were gathered in a computer cluster at CMU's Baker Hall on Monday, August 1, to learn all about the Internet and the best ways to use it safely. This workshop was made possible through the "Scouting for Engineers" program sponsored by the College of Engineering and the INI.

Led by Dena, the approximately one-hour long workshop included slides, hands-on activities, and an introduction to playing "Carnegie Cadets, The MySecureCyberspace Game," which is a free educational game available from www.carnegiecyberacademy.com. INI staff members Ann Lyon Ritchie, Amanda Kraemer and Yuki Izena-Vandapel were also present to help cover topics such as cyberspace safety, networks, what the Internet is used for, and potential threats and how to avoid them.

For example, in order to explain how a network works, Ann, manager of communications at the INI, asked for five volunteers. Standing beside each other in a circle, five cub scouts were told they represented a computer on a network. A file folder was passed around the entire circle to represent an email being sent, and each boy got to peek inside of it. Inside one of the folders was a print-out of a MasterCard. The point of the exercise was to show that even though you think you're sending an email to one person, other computers in the network could also access it, so you have to make sure your connection is secure and be careful what you're sending.

The rest of the workshop continued to be very interactive and informative. The group was told that cyberspace is a great place, but there are also some threats. When asked "what are threats?" a few shouted-out answers included "bad things" followed by "cigarettes!" The scouts then learned that cyber threats are "bad things" such as identity and data theft, fraud, cyberbullying, phishing and online predators.

Amanda, creative lead of the INI's outreach team, then spoke about all the different types of malware, or malicious software. The group was introduced to The MySecureCyberspace Game's cyber criminals, such as Elvirus, Ms. Information and M.C. Spammer, and then were assisted in creating an account and beginning to play the game.

"Through the game, children and parents can learn the many challenges of information security and to help make more American households cyberaware, and in the future these children may develop an interest in cybersecurity as a career path," Dena said.

To secure your part of cyberspace, please utilize the free educational resource provided by Carnegie Mellon University at www.mysecurecyberspace.com. The Carnegie Cyber Academy is a free resource for both children and educators that offers games and online tools to teach Internet safety at www.carnegiecyberacademy.com.

Pictured above: Dena Haritos Tsamitis with a member of Cub Scout Pack 554.

Pictured below: The cub scouts peer inside a file folder representing a sent email. Approximately 25 cub scouts participated in the program. Photographs by Larry Rippel.

What is a Network Exercise

Online Safety Workshop