I read a few days ago about a young person who breached the cybersecurity of his high school computer system and changed his grades. He was caught and charged as an adult with forgery, computer trespass, unauthorized use of a computer, computer tampering, and criminal possession of forgery devices. According to reports, he learned most of technical skills in high school and at advanced level seminars at colleges. Apparently they did not teach computer ethics at those seminars or he was not listening.
Not long ago James Antonakos and I wrote in an article about students noting how importance of “strong moral guidance, leading by example, and stressing the importance of doing the right thing all contribute to developing a mature student who uses the knowledge, skills and tools to fight cybercrime, not commit it” (LeClair and Antonakos, pg16). For students to learn the skills of cybersecurity they naturally need to be exposed to the tools that cyber criminals utilize in order to understand the operations of hackers. However, showing students ‘how’ to hack without providing the ethical guidance as to how that knowledge should be used is akin to providing a teen with alcohol and a set of cars keys and expecting them not to get in trouble.
There will of course be ‘bad apples’ and young adventurers that ignore any advice and do what they choose, but if teachers make the time to instill (computer) ethics and not assume that ethics are learned at home, we can at least prevent the bulk of young learners from playing with fire and getting burned. That, and highlighting examples from the news of the most ‘brilliant’ hackers getting nabbed and facing adult charges might do just that.
It’s worth the effort, as in the very near future we are going to need all the white hat hackers we can get.
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LeClair, J. Antonakos, J. I’m not a hacker: I just play one in the classroom. United States Cybersecurity Magazine. Vol.3 No.6. 2015.
Rosario, F. (2015). Teen accused of hacking high school, improving grades.