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Experts urge cyber security to be taught to 5-year-olds

In light of Australia becoming a global target for cyber attacks, cyber security experts are urging for changes to the education curriculum, which would see children as young as five taught good security practices.

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Mon, 07 Nov 2022
Experts urge cyber security to be taught to 5-year-olds
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While a new Australian curriculum has laid out an increased emphasis on practising better online safety and security literacy, Dr Nicola Johnson of the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre has pointed out a disparity between the changes and the centre’s recommended cyber skills.

“We need to start early with five-year-olds ... there is a need to educate people from a young age to protect themselves from common cyber security threats,” said Johnson.

Johnson has acknowledged that an increased focus on privacy and security in the new curriculum is a step in the right direction but more has to be done.

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“Children need to be not just cyber safe — it’s not enough — they need to be cyber secure,” she said.

The new curriculum teaches students safe practices such as safe online browsing and how to set strong passwords, but it contains gaps in knowledge such as backing up information, using anti-virus software, social media practices and more.

Johnson has said that the “ownership of devices is increasingly becoming younger and younger”, adding fuel to her argument of teaching good practices at a much younger age. Currently, many of these behaviours aren’t taught until secondary school and are often kept unique to elective subjects.

The push for a focus on cyber security practices has come as a result of a slew of security breaches on major companies such as Medicare and Optus.

Australian students are the latest victim of cyber crime, after the PNORS Technology Group, which is used by the Department of Education and Training in Victoria, was targeted by hackers.

Hackers stole data from a school entrance health questionnaire that contained personal information, including developmental, behavioural, and family health issues such as addiction.

PNORS chief executive Paul Gallo has said that the incident is currently under investigation, but believes that the information gathered was limited only to encrypted systems.

“However, overnight, the criminals behind the cyber attack released to the company in a private communication a sample of what is believed to be stolen data,” said Gallo.

“When we were informed about the cyber attack, we immediately shut down and isolated all our internal systems and took further measures to secure our network and data, along with pausing all data processing.”

The Victorian government is aware of the breach and is currently supporting PNORS.

“We are continuing to provide support to PNORS Technology Group to determine the extent of the information breach and to prevent further incidents,” said a spokesperson from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

“The Victorian government’s Cyber Incident Response Service [has] been notified and [is] taking appropriate action.

“If it is determined that Victorian government data has been exposed as a result of this breach, departments will notify impacted individuals and provide advice on steps they can take to minimise any risk.”

The Albanese government has begun making moves to improve national cyber security and is looking to increase the penalty for companies that fail to secure customer data.

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