New online game trains kids against cyber attacks

By on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Worms, viruses, Trojan horses, and spyware: BEWARE!

The National Science Center, or NSC, is now training kids to stay safe from cyber attack malware when they’re surfing the web or using email and cell phones. A new online game called Cyber Swarm Defenders is targeted to 6th-8th grade students and is also appropriate for younger students.

The game is part of the NSC’s newest Cyber Ops education outreach program. The NSC is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Army and NSC, Inc., that uses its resources to stimulate and increase science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known as STEM, proficiency in U.S. students, especially those in grades 4-9.

“Anything we can do to make the young students of our country understand the cyber threat and get them excited about STEM technologies has a big payoff,” said Ron Ross, chairman of the NSC.

“Educating students about cyber security threats and how to counteract them is imperative,” said Mike Krieger, the Army deputy chief information officer, who serves as the secretary of the Army’s proponent for the NSC. He also serves as the co-chairperson for the NSC’s Partnership Executive Committee, which provides overall direction and oversight for the NSC.

Cyber Swarm Defenders is deployed through the social networking site jabbersmack.com, which was built for children ages 13 and under. Kid-safe requirements are built in, including a parental control feature. This tower-defense strategy game integrates cyber security education and “learn to earn” mini-exercises. Students earn points, badges and game coins as they strengthen their defenses to advance through the game levels.

“Installing the game on a social network site allows us to reach a variety of students and an existing community of users,” said Krieger.

To access the game from the NSC’s website, go to www.NationalScienceCenter.org and click on the Cyber Swarm banner button. Or, go directly to http://www.jabbersmack.com/#/brands/view/VQYE. To play, participants must first register on jabbersmack–which is not accessible on some older versions of browsers.

“Our additional focus on cyber threats also significantly enhances the value proposition of the NSC Partnership,” Ross said.

Created by Congress in 1985, the NSC ‘s outreach programs include online teacher tools, two 18-wheeler Mobile Discovery Center vans, Junior ROTC STEM Outreach activities, and Cyber Ops. In addition to the new game, the Cyber Ops program links to a Malware Comic Book and Malware Mystery game that are also appropriate for older students.

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