Cyber Hygiene national educational program for students. The beginning of big changes in the building of a cybersecurity culture in Ukraine

Vladlen Basystyi
Vladlen Basystyi
cybersecurity expert, senior project lead at CRDF Global

Computers and various digital gadgets with online access become targets of hackers attack s every 39 seconds in the world. In 2018, more than 14 million people have been victims of data theft, which cost them a total of more than 3 billion.

According to the National Coordination Center for cybersecurity (hereinafter referred to as the NCCC) under the national security and Defense Council of Ukraine, more than 14 million cyber attacks are transferred to cyberspace in Ukraine every month. We must admit that cybercrimes, cyber frauds, and cyber aggression have become global and have become as real a threat as crime in the offline world.

It is important to say, that a study conducted by the American company Check Point Research  in 2019 found that 50% of cases of identity theft were committed using phishing attacks and other methods of psychological manipulation of people (social engineering). Therefore, to successfully counter modern cyber threats, it is extremely important to make cybersecurity a part of the culture of society. This means that every person who uses the internet should know the Basic Rules of Cyber Hygiene and have the skills to follow them, like the habit of drinking daily morning coffee.

Do ordinary Ukrainians follow the rules of Cyber Hygiene, as well as the tradition of drinking morning coffee? According to our assessments and NCCC monthly  cyber reports, we can say that almost no. In the government and commercial sectors, the situation is somewhat different, because now at the level of state organizations, a reform has begun to strengthen the national cybersecurity system, including with the help of international partners, and the commercial sector, after the notorious NotPetya in 2017, puts issues of cybersecurity and information systems in priorities, but globally there is no culture of cyber hygiene in Ukrainian society yet. Let’s not deceive ourselves. Ask yourself how long ago you changed passwords on your gadgets, installed an antivirus updates on your computer, or opened sketchy emails today.

And by the way, such a simple rule of using five Cyber Hygiene habits should be a basic, necessary and regular ritual for any internet user:

1. Use complex passwords and don’t use the same passwords to register on online resources, banking systems, etc.;

2. Do not send photos and scans of your bank cards and personal documents to strangers and questionable organizations;

3. Use licensed and antivirus software on your computers and phones, and update it regularly when you receive notifications about system updates;

4. Do not open shady emails;

5. Do not install apps or software from unofficial stores on your gadgets.

What does the students have to do with it?

We started working on Cyber Hygiene educational programs development in Ukraine in 2019. According to our assesments, students are the most active internet users today, who spend almost 60% of their time in digital space, and young people are most often face everyday cyber threats on a daily basis. Therefore, we have developed a e-learning course that quickly, simply and interestingly helps to spread up-to-date knowledge about the main threats in the digital space, explain what ihackers are hunting for, and help develop skills in protecting personal data, safe use of electronic devices and information resources.

Together with Ukrainian and International cyber experts ,and with the support of the U.S. State Department, we have developed an interactive free online course “Basic Secuirity Rules in the digital environment” for Ukrainian students. We have collected the most relevant situations for students to help young people understand the current trends used by hackers and cybercriminals, and provide all the opportunities to protect not only personal data, but also money and personal reputation.

Already 12 Ukrainian Universities from Kiev, Khmelnitsky, Berdyansk, Severodonetsk, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv, Lviv, Uzhgorod and Vinnytsia have joined the project and support our mission to develop a culture of Cyber Gygiene among students. More than 4,300 students completed the course, 95% of students said that the course was very useful for them, and 37% of young people noted, that they share their knowledge and skills with friends, classmates, and family members, so that they can also protect themselves from cybercriminals.

For us, this is a small victory, as the beginning of the path to big changes, which always start with small steps. Because we know that students of secondary special education institutions have already begun to participate virally in our course. And we hope that the student’s community will become the leading “driver” of using healthy cyber hygiene habits in everyday life.

We have already started working on the development of an interactive free online course “Basic safety rules in the digital environment for children and teenagers”- for juniors, middle and high school students, together with leading specialists and organizations. This course will be available for Ukrainian children next year.
The world has changed. Traditions are changing. This morning is not only a morning coffee, but also the removal of suspicious messages from your email.

For notes

Established in 1995, CRDF Global is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes safety, security, and sustainability through international development and foreign assistance missions across the globe. CRDF Global is a leading provider of programs for strategic development of cybersecurity potential aimed at creating sustainable communities in the digital space, reliably protected from cyber attacks. CRDF Global’s multinational team and networks of local communitie frompublic sector stakeholders create programs tailored to specific regional needs in more than 100 countries around the world. The organization is headquartered in Arlington, VA, US, with regional hubs in Amman, Jordan and Kyiv, Ukraine. More details on the CRDF Global website.

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