A Passion for Online Safety, Part 1

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Infosecurity Group and Infosecurity magazine are proud to support the (ISC)2 Foundation’s Safe and Secure Online program. This unique charitable effort links (ISC)2-certified information security experts to schools and other community groups, where they can offer guidance in online safety covering a wide range of topics, such as cyber-bullying, securing mobile devices, managing online identity, downloading, copyright and more.

The work they do, driven by a close-up view of threats that affect us all, is an opportunity for our industry, and indeed all industries which rely on positive development on the internet, to play an active role in inspiring a safe and secure cyber-world for everyone. As a keen supporter of this program and its objectives, I have penned a series of articles to share the experiences of the people who put a lot of passion into the effort.

Part 1: Burden of the Professional

In Switzerland, the (ISC)2 Foundation’s Safe and Secure Online program was launched to celebrate Safer Internet Day in 2013 with the aid of the (ISC)2 Chapter Switzerland and the efforts of my professional colleague and industry veteran Richard Lane, CISSP, head of information security for one of the UN agencies based in Geneva. The Swiss launch was the culmination of a two-year undertaking to recruit volunteers and endorsers, translate and adapt materials, secure copyrights, and, of course, contact schools. Richard embarked on this journey after hearing of the program’s success in the United Kingdom, where it had originally been established as a grassroots (ISC)2 member movement in 2006.

Richard, who now leads a team of volunteers available to support schools across Switzerland and sits on the (ISC)2 Foundation Committee, was motivated by his own children and those of close friends, who were reaching an age where internet use was becoming as normal as going out to meet friends. Just as he had been taught about road safety and stranger danger when leaving the house, Richard could see it made sense that his own children (and their friends’ children) learn about safety when using the internet. While many parents recognize this obligation, more often than not, they lack the skills and knowledge to do very much about it. 

Safe and Secure Online – Key Facts

  • Classroom and interactive group sessions
  • Over 165,000 children aged 7-14
  • Parents, teachers, vulnerable adults and seniors (coming soon)
  • 1500 volunteers active in 6 countries
  • United Kingdom; Republic of Ireland; Switzerland; United States; Canada; China (Hong Kong); India (coming soon)

Richard explains that: “Children and teenagers often don’t realize how exposed they are, and how their behavior today can hurt them later in life. They particularly confuse personal with private communication – an illusion that many social networks give their users.”

Richard and his team of volunteers want to open their eyes and level the playing field for children. The volunteers also recognize that Safe and Secure Online presents an opportunity to encourage ethical behavior in the children destined to grow up and enter the workforce within the businesses they currently work so hard to protect.

Initially, developing Safe and Secure Online was a very lonesome task for Richard. “It wasn’t just a matter of finding good material and calling up local schools. We had to be sure of the right to use the material that was available. Further, volunteers are busy professionals who need support, encouragement and belief that they can have an impact. Then there was the rigor of the program itself. This was very understandable, but not something I had originally anticipated. We all had to be trained in issues around child safety, how to communicate with children, how to deal with incidents of disclosure, for example, and we also needed to fund our efforts.”

Crucial to both the support and development of the program in Switzerland were outreach to the local professional community, support from (ISC)2 EMEA and the (ISC)2 Foundation when it was established in 2011. The real breakthrough came during a short, 15-minute presentation at an (ISC)2 SecureSwitzerland conference in September 2012. Richard describes being overwhelmed by the response of the 80 or so people in the room. In fact, he was unable to attend the rest of the conference or even catch a breath, as people sought more information from him throughout the day. Many joined the program and a conference event was organized in Geneva to include a special workshop lead by UK-based volunteer Tim Wilson. 

“Children and teenagers often don’t realize how exposed they are, and how their behavior today can hurt them later in life"Richard Lane, CISSP

The (ISC)2 Foundation’s Safe and Secure Online program is not the only initiative in Switzerland. There are both public and private initiatives on a local, cantonal and federal level that aim to help teenagers manage their online lives.

“What makes Safe and Secure Online stand out is the fact that our volunteer force is made up of certified security professionals. This gives them a proven skills and experience base, as well as credibility when talking to schools,” explains Richard. “At the same time, we are part of a larger initiative with more than 1500 volunteers globally who have spoken to hundreds of thousands of students, parents and teachers.”

The Swiss effort has also been fortunate enough to have a number of sponsors from the security industry to support them, including (SCRT (www.scrt.ch), Open Systems (www.open.ch), Brainloop (www.brainloop.com) and IDQuantique (www.idquantique.com).

The success of the program to date sits squarely with the volunteers who have been effective with the limited resources available to them. The demand for their efforts, however, influenced (ISC)2 to establish the (ISC)2 Foundation, allowing this movement to seek more support from interested industry partners. There  will be more on this development in Part 2.

Anyone interested in learning how to get involved today can learn more here.

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