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How can a school cope with children who are capable of hacking its systems?

Young man is typing on laptop and looking at screen
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Computers and laptops occupy a desk in almost every child’s home today. Additionally, schools also have a dedicated time assigned exclusively to computers for research purposes.

Easy access to technology has brought many positives to education. But increasingly, schools need to be aware of computer-savvy children whose sophisticated skills could create challenges for their IT systems.

Hacking has its roots back in the 1950s and 1960s and was defined as a person who understands the systems and tries to break them, with good or ill intent, or simply to see if it can be done.

Could one of your pupils be a hacker?

The hacker personality is mainly characterised by “curiosity” about and “passion” for technology. Some other traits are: persistence, technical prowess and innovative ways of perceiving problems. Normally, such traits are considered ‘gifted’ by teachers and parents, which can make it difficult to detect that their teens are gradually dabbling in hi tech crime.

But, here is why this is considered a serious crime:

Even in the case of a teenager, if they ever break into systems (even if not for the purpose of stealing and using information online) they can be prosecuted under the same laws as a terrorist who hacks into systems.

A recent article published by Huffington Post revealed that one in ten (16 to 19-year-old teens) engage in some form of illegal cyber-activity. In fact, the article further reported that over a third of them would be impressed if a friend managed to replace a homepage of a major bank with a cartoon. The survey was conducted with a sample of 1,500 (16 to 19-year-old teens).

It further concluded that teens seek this sort of respect from peers, but many may be naïve about the consequences of their actions.

“I see kids of 11 and 12 sharing credit card details and asking for hacks,” said Chris Boyd, Director of Malware research at FaceTime Security.

Graham Robb, a board member of the Youth Justice Board for Ministry of Justice, UK explains the risks involved in hacking for young people.

“If they get a criminal record it stays with them. A Criminal Record Bureau check will throw that up and it could prevent access to jobs.”

The story of Ryan Cleary who was accused of a hacking attack

In 2011, 19 year-old Ryan Cleary made headlines when he was arrested for hacking the website of the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Cleary created a remotely controlled network of zombie computers known as “botnet.” He carried out distributed denial of service attacks using “botnet” that resulted in websites getting flooded with traffic to make them crash. Another similar attack he carried out was against the British Phonographic Industry’s website and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s website.

In 2013, Cleary made news again for all the wrong reasons – he was found with more than 170 indecent images of children, some as young as six months.

Are you concerned that your systems may be susceptible to hackers? Have you implemented e-safety measures in your school? Securus-software not only provides solutions but also partners with schools in safeguarding their pupils online. Follow us on Twitter to get daily updates on e-safety solutions.

From Isolation to Self-Harm and Suicide: How Cyberbullying Affects Children

child leaning on a wall
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

 The bullying was painful and hurtful to me, and I wanted other people to know how it affected me. I made new friends who had also experienced cyberbullying, and together we decided that we wanted online bullies to realise that they could seriously hurt someone…..”

 – An excerpt from Jessica Davies’ story

Unlike school corridors and classrooms, the virtual world remains largely unsupervised, providing an open space for bullies to target children and victimise them. Unfortunately, because it happens online, cyberbullying frequently goes completely unnoticed by adults.

What is important for teachers to consider is that there is a lot of evidence that points to the fact cyberbullying has far reaching consequences for individuals, sometimes proving to be fatal. Here is a video of a brave 14-year-old girl who talks about her experience and how it almost led to her taking her own life.

As children go through the various stages of adolescence, they are already beginning to deal with emotional and psychological changes that make them vulnerable; add to that a bully, whose sole objective is to torment and terrify, and it will undoubtedly lead to an unhealthy and unhappy child.

Cyberbullying affects children in a number of ways and can have long lasting consequences, if not identified and addressed early on:

  1. Damaged self-esteem

Victims of cyberbullying often feel like punch bags, as bullies constantly target them across various internet platforms. Bullying robs children of their sense of self-worth and security, leaving them feeling exposed and weak. Emotionally, children may withdraw from activities they once enjoyed or perform poorly at school as they lose confidence in their abilities.

Constant name-calling and teasing can seriously hurt a child’s self-esteem causing them to develop deeper and more serious emotional problems as they go through adolescence.

  1. Anxiety and Depression

Naturally, once a child’s self-esteem is eroded, they begin to spiral down a path of negativity and self-doubt, eventually experiencing serious psychological issues. The constant stress of being targeted online can make a child feel isolated, humiliated and extremely nervous in social situations. Collectively, these emotions can lead to serious mental damage, causing full blown depressive episodes in some cases.

According to Dr Bijlani, who works at the Priory Hospital, Roehampton, in south-west London, “Children often fear reporting abuse and only later in life do these issues surface in the form of depression, stress, anxiety and other serious psychological conditions.”

  1. Aggression

In some instances, children might lash out and behave aggressively as a means to cope with the constant fear and pressure of being bullied. Unfortunately, in such cases the child is often subjected to further criticism from parents and teachers who are unaware of what is really going on.

  1. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts

Self-harm is more common than we realise and very often results from being constantly victimised and targeted by a bully. An article in The Huffington Post claims “almost half of school staff believe students under their tutelage have self-harmed and almost one in five were aware of youngsters attempting suicide, according to a new survey.” Some staff said cyberbullying and the desire to feel popular were among the most common causes of stress among their pupils.

A particularly alarming survey by ChildLine, Selfharm.co.uk, YouthNet and YoungMinds, revealed that 25% of children cited bullying as a cause for self-harm and almost 40% said that they had never talked about it to anyone in the ‘real world’.  Furthermore, ChildLine registered an 87% rise in calls about cyberbullying last year, a 41% increase in calls about self-harm, with the highest increase among 12- to15 year olds.

The Department of Health has recently commissioned a study into the possible links between suicide and the internet, the results of which will be made available in two years. A spokeswoman from the department stated that mental health was a priority for the Government and indicated the introduction of internet safety into the national curriculum.

If you are worried that your students are being bullied online, here are some signs to look out for: (keep in mind that these symptoms could be the result of other issues as well)

  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Reluctance to let parents or other adults anywhere near their laptops etc.
  • Finding reasons to stay away from school and other activities
  • Marks on the skin that could indicate self-harm
  • A marked change in personality i.e. anger, depression, crying, appearing withdrawn

Securus helps schools implement e-Safety measures that protect children from potential harm. Share your thoughts with us on this issue in the comments section, or connect with us on LinkedIn or Twitter to know more about how we can help.

 

Racist Abuse Incidents Surge in UK Schools After Brexit Vote

brexit
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

The aftermath of Brexit has brought back memories of racism from the ’80s, as reports of Race-hate incidents kept popping up on Facebook and Twitter feeds within hours of the Brexit result being announced.

“Daughter tells me someone wrote “[Child’s name] go back to Romania” on the wall in the girl’s toilets at School today,” tweeted James Titcombe, a Patient Safety Specialist with Datix, UK.

Whilst Polish immigrants were being called “vermin” and people shouted chants like “make Britain white again”, in the Quartz London office, a woman in a hijab was accosted as she walked into a mosque and a Polish mother was told to get off a bus and start packing her bags.

A recent article published in Schools Week quoted the National Police Chiefs’ Council that reports of hate crime had risen by 57 percent compared with the same period last year – 85 incidents were reported compared with 54 during the earlier period. More people reported numerous instances of school children being subjected to racist abuse, sometimes from other pupils; much of this has been posted on social media.

How can schools protect themselves from racist attacks?

In an interview with BBC, Andy Somers, head of Hartsdown Academy, referred to “ugly things” that had been said to pupils at his school after the referendum. Somers also said that many people seemed to think that, because of the vote… that it’s OK to be racist.

“The country will not stand for hate crime,” David Cameron told MPs in the Commons.

He further added, “in the past few days we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre, we’ve seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities. Let’s remember these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country.” Cameron said.

In order to tackle hate crime, David Cameron announced a new action plan in the Commons. He has advised ‘vulnerable’ institutions to seek extra security funding from the Home Office.

How has the EU referendum dominated the digital world and why is it important for schools?

The date June 23rd, 2016 will be etched in the minds of British people, with either a smile or a shiver. Not only did this political battle take over the television studios, broadcasting endless debates – the EU referendum also dominated the digital world.

But how?

Over roughly the same period, about 16,000 tweets appeared using a term or hashtag associated with xenophobia. Whilst 10,000 tweets were sent out in support for migrants, some 5000 tweets were xenophobic.

Agreed, a degree of conflict is part of the point of politics, but hasn’t the EU referendum triggered an entirely different political battle?

All the tweets that are xenophobic in nature are readily available online for anyone with an internet connection to read – if adults are unable to cope with it, imagine a teenager’s reaction?

In addition to extra security funding from the government, here’s another e-Safety option you might be interested in – Securus is the leading e-Safety solutions provider for schools and colleges, monitoring all computer-based activities. We ensure that young people are safeguarded against the various range of threats they face in this digital age.

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