Virginia Puts State Support Behind School Cyber Security Program

The Virginia Department of Education and the state office of the Attorney General have put their support behind a program to bring cyber security experts into classrooms. The (ISC)² Safe and Secure Online program is intended to teach students about protecting themselves online.

(ISC)² certified members visit schools to deliver the interactive Safe and Secure Online presentation designed for children ages 11 through 14. The program teaches students about the perceived "dangers" of social networking, cyberbullying, viral e-mails, spam, and identity theft, among other topics. The content used for the training was developed, the organization said, by former school teachers. The program is offered to all United States schools at no cost. (ISC)² is an organization that offers training and certification to cyber security professionals.

The Safe and Secure Online program officially kicked off in Virginia at Swanson Middle School in Arlington, where security speaker Dan VanBelleghem of NCI Information Systems delivered a one-hour cyber security presentation and led a discussion with 15 middle school children. Then, during lunch, VanBelleghem delivered another hour-long presentation to teachers.

"We were very happy with the presentation by the cyber security expert, especially after seeing how the students were so engaged in the discussion," said Principal Chrystal Forrester. "The safety of our children is our first concern, and teaching them how to protect themselves online is an integral part of those efforts."

"Virginia has made great strides in bringing cyber safety education to children, but we realize there is still much work to be done," said Gene Fishel, chief of the Computer Crime Section in the Virginia Attorney General's Office. "The Safe and Secure Online program is unique in that it goes beyond curriculum and brings top security experts from business and government into schools to talk directly to kids about responsible computing and personal safety."

The program, announced in October 2009, currently has 600 volunteers. Virginia is the first state to express its support for the initiative.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.