Student self-immune awareness program & addressing the rising trend of cyber blackmail

5 May 2016 15:00h

Event report

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This session discussed issues related to the preparation of children to safely manage their ICT world and to empower values such as social responsibility, leadership, positive thinking, etc.  The session was led by High Level UAE representatives. The UAE has significant activities in this field in developing self-immune programmes for students and dedicating specific activities for cyber-blackmail.

The moderator, Mr Mohammed Al Khamis (Senior Manager ICT Planning Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, UAE), introduced the main topic of the discussion – the self-immune programme ‒ with two main focal points: AQUADAM and cyber-blackmail.

H.E. Colonel Dr Ibrahim Al Dabal (Khalifa Student Empowerment Program – General Coordinator, Ministry of the Interior, UAE on AQUADAM) opened the first panel by presenting AQUADAM in brief. The very name of the programme (translated into English as ‘I can’) reflects the main theme of empowering young people to face challenges in the ICT world and to develop new solutions for the safe use of the Internet. The main approach in this programme, the so-called 360-degree scale, reflects the comprehensive collaboration of multiple entities stretching from government to academia, students, private sector, and others. The main partners on which the programme relies are students who have absolute freedom to design the content and suggest ideas that will raise awareness about cyber threats. The government is there just to realise and support these ideas. The philosophy of this programme is one of team work, diversity, professionalism, and sustainability. It is  designed around personal skills, national safety, and crime prevention.

One of the outputs is a book which presents the curriculum focusing on the main pillars  and containing messages from the programme partners. In order to efficiently deliver ideas and messages from the book, they organised activities including the ‘students as an author’. They launched 50 new books by students based on the pillars of the curriculum. They also launched educational games in Apple stores designed by students. The games have indirect messages about secure and safe use of the Internet. These ideas were realised with the help of companies that are part of the programme.  The overall agenda is to support students to start working by themselves, to design campaigns that will reach their peers since they are in the best position to create content that will be interesting to their friends

As one of the examples of good practice, Ebrahin Abdulah, a 16-year-old student in a governmental school in Abu Dabi, told us how he had started a YouTube channel at the beginning just for fun. Thanks to a visit to the school by the Kalifa Student Empowerment Program, he started to use his skills to raise awareness by creating the videos that have an educational purpose.

In the second part of the discussion related to best practices, Mr Ghaith Almazaina (Manager – Business Affairs, Computer Emergency Response Team (aeCERT), UAE Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, UAE) spoke about the  cyber-blackmail campaign, launched last year within the competences of the CERT. The main motive was to address the grooming phenomenon of blackmail and reduce it by getting to the public and involving institutions. One of the most important services of this programme is a hotline where people can report grooming. Reports are treated confidentially. They expanded this programme to the other Gulf countries and their colleagues from CERTs in other Arab countries. Within this campaign they are trying to warn about the consequences of blackmail and educate people to never send money but rather immediately report it to the police, or report it on a social media site. They are also trying to familiarise people with cyber laws in the country. Even though this campaign was planned to last for one year, because of the high demand they have extended it for another year and created an English version of the content.

After the presentation of the programmes,  the session was concluded by the moderator who summarised the main messages that could be extracted from the presentations.  No one is immune or secure on the Internet. Awareness is most important. And sharing experiences and best practices is the most effective tool to fight this problem on a worldwide level.

by Adriana Minovic