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Tech High students help brainstorm ideas to increase cyber security

February 11, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Technical High School computer repair and networking students, from left: Tapiwa Mutumhe, Anthony Owuor, and Jared Schnurr brainstorm Friday with National Cyber Security Campaign representative Greg Hart on ideas to reduce forms of online crime and security breaches.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Someday they might be on the front lines of the fight for cyber security.

But on Friday, the students in David Long's Computer Repair and Networking and Chris Malott's Graphic Communications and Printing classes at the Washington County Technical High School were learning to stop and think before they connect to the Web.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security addressed the students on the agency's initiative, "Stop. Think. Connect.," which is aimed at educating teens and young adults about being secure online.

"We're going all across the country partnering with different colleges, universities and high schools to hold cyber citizen forums, to spread awareness ... on the five simple tips to help America be more cyber assured," said Tim Fraser, director of the national cyber security awareness campaign.

Fraser said that the "Stop. Think. Connect." campaign affirms the following five tips for staying safe online:

  • Keep a clean machine
  • Protect your personal information
  • Connect with care
  • Be Web wise
  • Be a good online citizen

Fraser said the campaign is constantly evolving thanks to input from students like those in Hagerstown.

Greg Hart of homeland security led the students in an exercise to draw out their ideas for the campaign.

Hart asked the students to get into groups, define a few key concepts central to cyber security — identity theft, fraud and "phishing," cyber predators, cyber ethics and cyber bullying — and explain how the campaign could address those concerns.

Long said his students learn about cyber security as part of his class.

He said some of them have already landed internships in the field, including senior Tyler Alexander, who is interning at Ongoing Operations in Hagerstown, and Mark Sokol, who is interning with the National Park Service at the C&O Canal.

Having professionals who work in the field come talk to the students helps reinforce his lessons, Long said.

"These students hear me for two years, every other day for six hours, and at times I think my voice sounds like the Charlie Brown teacher, so its hard to engage them for any length of time," he said. "Any time I can get a guest speaker that comes in here, that reinforces the same things I'm saying, it makes my life a lot easier."

As for the students, they each took something away from the presentation Friday.

"I learned there are a lot more people who fall for these scams then one would think," said Logan Hershberger, 17, a senior in Long's class.

Senior Andrew Kronawetter, 17, said he felt the campaign was effective for educating the public.

The key to staying safe is "using your head," he said.

"The public needs to know how to protect themselves, and what they need to do," Fraser said.  And with so many teens on the Web, it starts in the next generation, he said.

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