CyLab receives $20,000
Some of Pittsburgh’s school-aged children will soon be learning about cybersecurity through the use of cadets and virtual adventures. Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab and Information Networking Institute (INI) has received a $20,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation that will fund an interactive cyber-awareness community outreach program based at Pittsburgh’s St. Bede school, a local parish school located on Edgerton Avenue.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the community to raise the awareness of cybersecurity threats and their solutions, including how to deal with viruses and spam, how to protect your privacy online, and strategies in dealing with cyber-bullies amongst other topics,” said Dena Haritos Tsamitis, director of INI and director of training and outreach at CyLab.
Anna Maria Berta, the principal project manager for technical curricula who has managed the portal and been involved in the outreach team, spoke about her excitement for the grant.
“It is an excellent opportunity for CMU to participate in the community and for Pittsburgh to feel that CMU is involved. We have a lot to share, and it is good to have this feeling of mutual interest and participation,” Berta said.
Although this particular outreach program will focus on the St. Bede School, the programs created by the CyLab and INI research team are already in use at hundreds of schools around the world via Internet downloads.
Tsamitis expanded on the main components of the outreach program.
“My team’s efforts over the past five years have been very much focused on the content development of the MySecureCyberspace portal (www.mysecurecyberspace.com), which provides customized information and solutions to users about ongoing cybersecurity threats, and Carnegie Cadets: The MySecureCyberspace Game, which is a downloadable educational game freely available to the public,” she said.
The Carnegie Cyber Academy is a children’s website that accompanies the MyCyberSpace Game and is aimed at fourth to seventh graders, providing an interactive website for these children, as well as their parents and teachers, to learn about safe computing.
The premise of the game is that students participate as cadets who complete a series of virtual challenges to advance their knowledge to become “Cyber Defenders of the Internet,” according to the website, www.carnegiecyberacademy.com.
Ann Ritchie, an instructional designer at CyLab and content developer for these outreach initiatives, brought up the benefit of funding for the constant improvement of the programs.
“New funding makes it possible to develop materials that will make an impact effectively across different media, as well as to keep our outreach materials relevant to the ongoing changes of Internet trends and threats,” Ritchie said.
Students are expected to learn about such topics as Internet security terms, the danger of Internet predators, how to surf safely online, the problem of cyber-bullying, and protecting against identity theft, according to a Carnegie Mellon press release.
Unlike the past initiatives being used at schools around the world, this new project with the St. Bede school will allow researchers to see the results materialize.
“Much of the delivery of our outreach material happens over the Internet and conferences, so I look forward to seeing the real names and faces of the people who will be involved in the series of workshops at St. Bede,” Ritchie said.
Tsamitis said that the use of these technologies will be complemented by a series of cybersecurity workshops in which all members of the St. Bede and surrounding community will be invited to attend.
“The St Bede community has responded with much enthusiasm and willingness to collaborate. They are planning to invite to our outreach program all 250 families of their K-8 school plus everybody in the parish,” Berta said.