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Risks in Cyber Space

As the education sector is making progress in its digital way, educational institutions are becoming vulnerable to be targeted for cyber bullying ~ from ransomware attacks to data breaches.

A K GHOSH | New Delhi |

As we continue to evolve in the wake of the pandemic, our children are back to school. However, they are spending time virtually at least for some time and many parents are still working from home. So, everyone is sharing a network ~ and the underwhelming state of cyber security education creates immense cyber risks. Encouragingly the new school curriculum in Kerala promises to include cyber security with focus on its effective usage in academic and administrative areas. Prior to the pandemic situation, most school systems had no provision for distance learning and cyber security was not a priority. But cyber criminals did learn that kids could be easy targets for social engineering attacks.

Lack of security awareness training in schools means that children are not likely to be as cautious about cybercrime risk as they should be ~ and with parents and children sharing networks and devices they can cause greater risk to vulnerable pieces of business of their elders. Cyber security is a complex issue that cuts across multiple domains and calls for multidimensional initiatives. Cyber space has expanded dramatically in its brief existence due to rapid development of Information Technology and commercial applications associated with it. All the infrastructures depend on relay data for communication and commercial transactions.

The operational stability and security of critical information infrastructure is vital for the economic security of the country. Cyber threats vary from simple hacking of an email to waging a war against a state. Use of cyberspace, i.e., computer, internet, cellphone, and other technological devices to commit a crime by an individual or organized group is called cybercrime. They exploit the weakness of the software and hardware design using malware. Various crimes may be facilitated by computer networks in the form of economic frauds to destabilize the economy, attacks on banking transaction systems, extraction of money through fraud and intellectual theft of property. Impairing the operation of a website or service through data alteration and data destruction may also be facilitated.

Spreading pornography, copyright infringement, cyber stalking and obscene content to harm others’ reputation may be done by cyber criminals. Other harmful practices may be the misuse of social media in fanning intolerance, instigating commercial business, and posting inflammatory materials that tend to invite hate crime. As the education sector is making progress in its digital way, educational institutions are becoming vulnerable to be targeted for cyber bullying ~ from ransomware attacks to data breaches. It is high time that academic leaders prioritize cyber security through cyber education. Admittedly, the Internet has its great potential for benefiting everyone, but it is certainly harmful when it leads to cyber risks.

At a time when there is considerable increase in societal, market and technological innovations and the use of the Internet is growing fast, the role of education providers becomes important in teaching critical digital literacy to students as well as guiding parents regarding their wards’ Internet use at home. The aim of cyber security education should be to educate users on the potential risks they face when using Internet communication tools, such as social media chat, online gaming, email, and messaging. The growing world of cyber space may have adverse effects on Internet users, such as through cybercrime. Such issues should be contained early. Cyber security education is necessary because cybercrimes may take place anywhere, anytime.

Hence the need for cyber security ~ which may be defined as the activity, process, ability, or state whereby information and communication systems and the information contained therein are protected from damage and exploitation. Cyber security education is required to control addiction to computer games. It is necessary to educate children on the safe and responsible use of online resources and platforms, to establish a culture of cyber safety. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are the most popular Internet applications. The explosion of available information contributes to risks involving security.

Children need to be equipped enough to defend themselves against possible cyber threats. Teachers should also be trained enough to promote critical understanding rather than restrictive approaches to cyber safety. Building the cybersecurity workforce of the future and integrating cyber security awareness across all industries are top priorities for national security. Cyber security education may become one of the fastest growing streams in higher education and vocational training. It is also time for our higher education institutions to introduce programmes that could increase their relevance to students. Integrating cyber security programmes is critical to both technological and non-technological degrees. Cyber security education may be executed in a variety of ways.

Professional development for adult learners or in-depth training for a career in cyber security may be offered. In addition, students in business, law and criminal justice may use advanced cyber intelligence skills to conduct better due diligence, online research, litigation, anti-money laundering measures, market analysis and other functions. For students in non-technological degrees, a deep understanding of cyber crime protection measures and intelligence methods may be provided. It is crucial for schools to become knowledge centres to expose issues around cyber security to the community. School administrators and teachers may discuss together and organise programmes about cyber security. Video cartoons may be identified as resources for teachers to use when discussing cyber security principles with learners.

The school curricula need to be improved to include cyber topics. Providing knowledge to upgrade teachers and students’ understanding of cyber issues could serve as one step that may be taken to protect such groups from evolving cyber threats. Security awareness programmes can promote cyber security education in schools. The principles of cyber awareness have been refined over the years of research in the social psychological arena but have not yet caught much attention of the IT professionals. School administrations can also set up cyber organizations on their premises. Students themselves can follow a learner centred approach whereby they find information about cyber security from the Internet. In fact, challenges to cyber security education include the level of teachers’ knowledge and the lack of expertise, funding, and resources.