AT&T's Chris Boyer recalls rewarding C-SAVE experience

Jun 20, 2011 5:50pm

By AT&T's Chris Boyer, who also serves as the NCSA Board Treasurer

One of the opportunities I have had in the past couple of years is to represent AT&T in the development of the recently launched  STOP. THINK. CONNECT. cyber security awareness campaign.  STOP. THINK. CONNECT. is intended to do for cyber security what Smokey the Bear did for forest fire prevention or "Click it or Ticket" did for seatbelts.  The theme of the campaign is pretty simple - if we apply the same common sense we apply in the physical world in the virtual world we would all be safer online.

However driving wide spread adoption of a public safety message is the hard part.   While the numbers vary depending upon the study I have seen estimates that consumers are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of commercial messages daily.  So how do we cut through all of that clutter to actually change behavior?  

I think one of the best ways to accomplish this is to focus on youth so that it becomes second nature for kids to apply common sense online.  And while clearly parents need to take the lead schools offer a great opportunity to reinforce this message.

One opportunity to do that is through the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Cyber Security Awareness Volunteer Education (C-SAVE) program.  C-SAVE is a set of class room materials and other resources designed to support volunteers willing to talk about cyber security in their local K-12 schools centered around the theme of STOP. THINK. CONNECT.  The concept of C-SAVE is to enable individuals to build grass roots efforts in their local communities to improve cyber security education.
A few months ago I had a chance to see C-SAVE in action.  During the RSA conference in San Francisco NCSA organized a C-SAVE event at the Gardner Bullis Elementary School in Los Altos Hills, CA.  In my case I was asked to assist in teaching the materials to a group of 5th graders.  All of the kids seemed to have some sort of device attached to the internet whether it was a game counsel, computer, mobile device (yes - including 5th graders with iPhones).  

While I was not really surprised by the level of sophistication of the kids what was encouraging was how much many of them understood about staying safe online (which makes we wonder if we need a C-SAVE program for adults or maybe their kids can teach them?).  It was clear that the kids understood that there were ground rules online.  We presented them with multiple scenarios and there seemed to be a general understanding of the risks in certain behaviors.
I viewed the day as a highly rewarding experience and want to encourage others to volunteer as well.  The program doesn't take much time - only a few hours out of your day and a little self initiative to reach out to schools in your local community - and all of the materials are readily available online.   

Chris Boyer
Assistant Vice President, Public Policy, AT&T
NCSA Board Treasurer