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Published
Jun 23 2015

Cyber Smart is the New Street Smart

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By Shannon Landin, Co-founder of Codecraft Lab
and Stephanie Galbo, Software Engineer & Codecraft Lab Super Volunteer

Don’t cross the road without looking both ways. Be aware of your surroundings and know who is around you. Don’t talk to strangers. These are just a few of the street smart lessons we preach to our kids, but now they are equally applicable in our digital lives if you think about it.

In today’s quickly changing, and increasingly dangerous, software-connected world it’s important to be Cyber Smart, and that can only come from learning to code. Such an education is the best preparation for today’s digitally dominated world.  At Codecraft Lab, we recognize that it can also produce what will be needed most in the future – a global geek squad rivaling the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes as it ferrets out malicious programs, blocks their access to our information, and traces them to their origins.

A recent PBS Nova program Rise of the Hackers, described how vulnerable we are. The story is as fascinating as any mystery or spy novel and details the creativity needed to identify the culprit as well as the implications for all of us. More importantly, it opened up the world of Cyber Sleuthing. What if, instead of cyber hackers, we produce a generation of Cyber Sleuths?

Every day there are brain-numbing stories on how hackers have infiltrated the IRS, health insurance companies, retailers, banks, schools, navigation systems, entertainment and our social media platforms to the point where most of us throw up our hands and conclude we are doomed to have our identities manipulated or stolen. Even organized crime is getting in on the action.

While learning to code may reveal the intricacies of JavaScript or Python, it also develops a host of other useful skills: logical thinking, decision-making, attention to detail, patience, prioritization, and teamwork, which are the same attributes that describe great detectives.

Malicious hackers are counting on our lack of knowledge to get us to give them sensitive information, or just make our lives miserable for their own enjoyment. If a burglar called you and told you to open your front door to let them in, you wouldn’t do it, but there are cyber-scams like this going on right now. They know how to sound just plausible enough, and if you don’t have the technical knowledge, it can be hard to tell the difference between someone from IT really trying to help you and a scammer trying to get you to download a virus.

While teaching kids to code can help our future cyber security, such education should not stop there. Adults should be encouraged to learn how to code. Knowing even just a little bit about what’s going on behind that website, or what the difference is between JavaScript and HTML and why it matters could probably save you from falling victim to these kinds of tricks.

With the rise of IoT (Internet of Things), computer programming knowledge and cyber safety will become even more important in protecting ourselves. Being “cyber-smart” will be a necessary skill of the future, about as important as learning how to look both ways before you cross the street  – even when our cars are automated and self driving.

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