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Defending against online threats

Cyber Defence Challenge teaching youth ins and outs of online security

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A Winnipeg cyber-security firm is working to teach teens about the growing importance of cyber-security practices.


Seccuris Inc.’s downtown office at the corner of McDermot Ave. and Adelaide St. is a bulwark against the world of computer hacking, but there are tributes to the tools used by hackers as well. Know thy enemy, after all.


Walking through a room prominently featuring two arcade games (they run security checks on modern games), technical solutions manager Karen Kabel points out the first-ever hacking tool, sealed in a plastic case: A toy whistle out of a box of Cap'n Crunch.


Cyber-security, and the tools used to subvert it, have grown ever more sophisticated since those days. With teens flocking online in droves, there’s a great need to show them the ropes of safe practices online.


Hence, Kabel and a group of like-minded security pros are leading the charge in teaching youth how to stay safe via the Cyber Defence Challenge Safe Online Program (CDC).
"It's an educational program... It has nothing to do with hacking," Kabel says.
"They do things like fixing and securing their network."


Incident response, disaster recovery and computer forensics are also part of the program.
There's also a "competition" aspect to the program, wherein students are challenged to fend off a cyber-attack on their system, using the skills they've learned.


The CDC is the result of a joint effort between ISC (International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium) Winnipeg and Saskatchewan Chapter, CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) Manitoba and ISACA  (Information Systems Audit and Control Association) Winnipeg Chapter, and is aligned with the National Cyber Security Alliance.


The program was first rolled out last fall and included high schools from Winnipeg and beyond, including Sisler High School and Tec Voc. After their success in the CDC, Sisler High earned an invitation to take part in an American competition, the CyberPatriot games in Washington, D.C.
The focus of the CDC program is split between teaching youth how to defend cyber-attacks and how to keep the wrong information off the web to begin with.


When that information gets into the wrong hands, the results can be devestating. Kabel uses the example of Amanda Todd, the British Columbian teenager who committed suicide last year after ruthless online bullying, as an example of the consequences.


"But there's kids creating profiles, girls 10, 12 years old making profiles where they're 18, 20 years old. They're pulling photos they've found online and are going to (dating site) Plenty Of Fish... tring to pick up guys. It's a game to them and they don't realize there's consquences," she says.


Charlie Bazilewich, Cisco networking instructor and CDC team coach for Sisler High School, agrees.


"In today's digital world... They have to know how to secure a home network," he says.


"A lot of people take for granted how much information is online these days."


A new CDC class began its training Feb. 14, and nearly 70 had signed up as of the first week of February. The next CDC competition is to take place in May this year, though no specific date has been set.

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