Students may show great aptitude for tech, including computer hacking—here’s how to guide them down the right cybersecurity path

5 ways to nurture a cybersecurity interest in a healthy way

Students may show great aptitude for tech, including computer hacking—here’s how to guide them down the right cybersecurity path

It’s something no teacher or administrator wants to think about, but what if one of your students is showing an interest in computer hacking? Teachers–sometimes more than parents–can tap into kids’ interests and skill sets. And with technology now a large part of how students are learning, it is just a matter of time until any educator runs into a student with an unexpected knowledge of how tech works or how to manipulate it.

How do you know if these students simply have a healthy curiosity or are interested in something darker? And how do you help an advanced student understand that they can use their skills for good by choosing a career as a cybersecurity professional rather than an underground hacker? Here’s how to handle such a nuanced situation.

1. Identify interest and skill

There are a few ways to pinpoint a student who has sufficient skills and interest to be a potential security threat.

First, look for kids with a high technical aptitude. They’ll be the whizzes in their computer class, often helping other kids (or teachers) who run into technical issues. Second, they seem to have all the devices and know how they work. Listen for them to talk about their phones, tablets, gaming systems, and more. Additionally, really pay attention to students who show a real curiosity about technology. These are the ones who talk frequently about new tech or ask a lot of questions; these kids are demonstrating a high level of interest in the topic. Combine technical aptitude, access to devices, and curiosity, and you have a student who could cross over into pushing the envelope a bit further than any of us want.

Second, keep an eye out for actions like changing a teacher’s password or accessing something on the network they’re not supposed to. Some kids might do this for attention. Others simply because they can. And others might consider it a harmless prank on a good-natured teacher. But if not recognized and addressed, changing a password could quickly turn into running bitcoin miners on school computers or hijacking a school quiz system in order to receive a particular incentive.

Ryan Cloutier

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