My Secure Cyberspace educates kids and adults
How would you like to be a cyberspace cadet; part of a space-suit wearing team that protects the cyber-world from cyber-villains such as MC Spammer and Elvirus? If you?d like to take the challenge, as many elementary school children in Pittsburgh have, you?re not too far away.
My Secure Cyberspace is a project created jointly by Carnegie Mellon University?s CyLab and the Information Networking Institute (INI), and it?s letting people do just that.
?What?s different about MySecureCyberspace is that it gives users customized information about what they could encounter online at any time,? INI Director Dena Haritos Tsamitis told INI News. Tsamitis is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Task Force for Information Security Education and Awareness. Tsamitis founded MySecureCyberspace when she realized the dearth of public information on personal computer security.
Now the public can easily learn about computer security on MySecureCyberspace. Adults can create accounts that provide information on how to maintain computer security while filesharing, Web surfing, instant messaging, e-shopping, and more.
My Secure Cyberspace for Kids scores points for being educational and a lot of fun. The site offers interactive, cartoon games that will teach children how to stay safe while using the internet. ?The goal of the MySecureCyberspace for Kids website,? the CySec Project website states, ?is to educate kids about cybersecurity and instill in them good cybercitizen habits so that being safe and secure online becomes as second nature as brushing your teeth.?
As both the villains and the heroes are well developed, the game easily charms children. ?My eight-year-old is my perfect test case. She does things [online] that totally blow my mind,? Tsamitis said on how MySecureCyberspace for Kids has already served as an educational tool in her own home. Her children have contributed to some of the games? appearance and features.
The game looks like a fun fusion of Kim Possible, The Jetsons, Danny Phantom, and Dexter?s Laboratory. Players have a first-person character view and reports to a ?Cyber Commander,? who is in charge of the Cyber Defense Academy. The Cyber Commander plays a parental role, guiding players and offering advice.
Faced with missions from your Cyber Commander in the first game, being a good cybercitizen becomes instinctive. Who wouldn?t want to stop the sketchy ?80s-looking
rapper MC Spammer from giving innocent people fake IQ tests and travel offers for money?
Who wouldn?t save the public from vampiric Elvirus? flirty but dangerous e-mail attachments, with titles like ?I Love You??
One of the game?s missions has the player enter a costume party. Prior to setting out, the Commander in Chief tells how this party represents an online chatroom. The player needs to infiltrate the room, listen to
partygoers? conversations, and find Chatroom Charlie, a dangerous cyber-villain. As a cyber-spy, the player clicks and drags a red flag on any suspicious conversation where a Chatroom Charlie may be asking for another partygoer?s personal information.
Now that the first and second games are in order, the creators are working on games three and four. ?Game three is going to focus on browsing: key concepts and skills when browsing the Internet ... to create awareness on how easily they can download spyware,? said Tsamitis. Game four, set in a shopping mall, ?will focus on how to shop online and download safety.?
The creators of MySecureCyberspace are working with i-SAFE America, a non-profit organization funded by Congress, whose focus is to educate children about online security. ?It was my vision to make 20,000 households in Pittsburgh cyber-aware, and 10 million worldwide,? said Pradeep K. Khosla, CMU?s dean of engineering and a cofounder of Cylab, to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in April.
There is little doubt that this goal will be reached. ?Three million children will play the games over the next year,? said Tsamitis. ?We have just launched a program in Japan.... Countries such as Japan, Korea, and Greece are looking to translate the games not just literally, but culturally.? Tsamitis also mentioned a movie studio?s interest in the games.
With such interactive, effective games, MySecureCyberspace for Kids just might teach kids to educate their parents about