Using fun to teach kids about cyberspace safety

KUALA LUMPUR: Instead of resorting to lectures and scary warnings, national cybersecurity agency Cybersecurity Malaysia decided to inject some fun into its CyberSAFE outreach programme that is mainly aimed at children.

The programme teaches the kids about safe online habits, how to come up with a strong password, how not to give out too much information on the Web, and more.

The agency kicked off the CyberSAFE programme during its Cybersecurity Malaysia Awards Conference and Exhibition 2010 here.

Several children and other participants liked the fun fair atmosphere at one of the many booths where the programme was being run.

The booth featured a tunnel where personifications of Internet threats, such as phishers and identity thieves, came out of the darkness as ghosts and monsters.

Ahmad Izham Khairuddin, head of the Outreach department at Cybersecurity Malaysia, said that keeping the programme activities light and fun-filled helps to relax the participants and maintain their attention, especially when they’re children.

Games are also used to help the participants learn the lessons. “These may be simple things that you think should come naturally but there are some people who fail to take these steps,” Ahmad Izham said.

“Websurfers need to get into the habit of practising safe online habits as they increasingly move to an Internet-based lifestyle,” he said.

“It’s difficult to make people, especially youngsters, realise how dangerous online threats are because these don’t have a physical form. So we dressed these threats up as hantus and other scary figures.”

Known as Hacker’s Walk, the tunnel was also where visitors could test the strength of their password, as well as their knowledge of online-safety rules.

The booth also featured a station where visitors had to dip their hands into a bowl of mealworms. Ahmad Izham explained that the mealworms represented dangerous “Internet worms” that can infect a computer.

“This squirmy experience serves to remind visitors that they should be wary of Internet worms, and to scan their computers regularly for such threats,” he said.

“We also reminded them that they should not simply open an e-mail attachment without scanning it first, or an ‘icky worm’ could be waiting inside for them.”

The CyberSAFE outreach programme will be a regular feature of the Cybersecurity Malaysia Awards Conference and Exhibition from now on.

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