Baldwin Students & Cybersecurity: More than Just Facebook Tips
Baldwin High, World Affairs Councils host an international student summit on cyber-warfare.
On Dec. 7, 1941, 353 Japanese aircrafts attacked and killed 2,402 Americans at a Hawaii naval base, essentially drawing the United States into World War II. And that was even before computer hackers.
Students from around the globe directed their eyes toward a Baldwin High School classroom on the anniversary of that Attack on Pearl Harbor, which served as a semi-fitting backdrop for an international student summit at the high school on Friday.
The online summit, brought to Baldwin High by the World Affairs Councils of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and made possible by technology from Twitter, Skype and the Philadelphia-based MAGPI network, linked together students from Pennsylvania, Texas and Islamabad, Pakistan, to tackle the ever-changing subject of global cybersecurity—specifically, cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare.
And at a time when students must show caution to protect their own security when using certain types of technology, several hundred students turned to some of that very same technology on Friday to facilitate a conversation over the security of billions of others worldwide.
Panelists Lawrence Husick and Dr. Phil Williams, speaking to live audiences at Temple University and at Baldwin High, respectively, and to cameras broadcasting their images and words to other participating locations, shared their expertise that day during an event titled "Cybersecurity: Global Warfare in the Fifth Domain."
Husick—a co-chairman of the Foreign Policy Research Institute's Center for the Study of Terrorism—and Williams—the director of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh—presented a myriad of cybersecurity problems to the participating students on Friday. And the students responded, asking questions of the experts and even offering potential solutions to each other's concerns.
Husick, pointing out the Pearl Harbor anniversary, said that knowing whether or not a country is at war was once an easy thing to see. Nowadays, however, faced with hackers aiming to steal sensitive digital information or to take down important pieces of infrastructure like central banking, power grids and air-traffic-control systems, he said, "The real question is, 'Are we at war?'"
Added Williams in front of a Baldwin High crowd of students from both Baldwin and nearby Thomas Jefferson high schools, "If it starts in cyberspace, does it stay in cyberspace?"
Perhaps responding to that question, students from the Roots Millennium Schools in Pakistan posed a question via Skype for discussion: "Why don't governments hire hackers?"
And Baldwin sophomore Sterling Jenkins wondered if real human soldiers would eventually be deemed unnecessary to fight wars.
Jenkins was one of 70 students from Baldwin's 10th-grade Advanced Placement World History classes participating in the summit.
The classes are taught by Katie Temme and Chris Reilsono.
"Sometimes, it's nice to take a break from ancient history and see what's going on in the world around you," Reilsono said of what Friday's summit offered his students, "really understand potential threats of the world around you and have a better understanding of why tensions might be the way they are.
"And when you get the kids to come together ... it's fantastic. We can all collaborate and really show what Baldwin has to offer."
This is the second time that Baldwin has hosted of one of these World Affairs summits, and Temme wanted her classes to be involved.
"We thought that the topic pertained more to world history than it did to any other (subject)," she said. "Last year, it was the U.S. history, the government classes that did it. This pertained more to world events, so our kids would be more interested in it."
And perhaps they'll even discover a career.
Joked Williams while mentioning future job opportunities for the high-schoolers, "If you're a (computer) geek, get involved in the cybersecurity world. (Policy) wonks, geeks and lawyers—you need all three."
And added Husick, "Technology change will accelerate during your lifetime."
Of course, whether or not any of the students participating on Friday actually choose to enter the technology industry one day, that industry will eventually find them anyway.
To that end, Husick talked frequently about "a game-changer" known as Internet Protocol version 6, or "IPv6," which could assign anything controlled by an Internet-based server (even switches and light bulbs) with its own unique identifying number.
Such things make events like Friday's all the more important, where members of the next generation collaborate internationally to discuss modern technology—while using modern technology.
"What we've been able to do today," said event moderator Dr. Steven E. Sokol, the CEO of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, "is, really, get you (students) all thinking about a topic or an issue that might not have been up front and central for you as you think about what's going on in the world. And yet, as we heard from our panelists, it's super-relevant to all of us who participated today and will continue to be very relevant to all of you as we have these incredible breakthroughs in technology and as we become more and more reliant and dependent on that technology."
Amiena Mahsoob, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh's deputy director of education programs and a former Baldwin High teacher, said that the Baldwin-Whitehall School District's administrative involvement and information technology capabilities have made Baldwin a great host for these events.
Mahsoob also spoke of the impetus for the event.
"Our mission is to teach students about the rest of the world and connect them to the rest of the world."
Mission accomplished, at least for one day. For future days, that's up to the students to keep the conversation going (#isscyber).
Click here to watch video from the event.
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