Avast CISO Jaya Baloo discusses online safety for teachers and students

Grace Macej 8 Aug 2022

Cybersecurity in schools is the main topic of the latest Code Week podcast, featuring Avast CISO Jaya Baloo.

New shoes and new backpacks are flying off the shelves, and that can only mean one thing – it’s back-to-school time. First semester always begins with fresh faces, new gear, and an open-minded attitude, so there’s really no better time to introduce safety measures and smart cybersecurity procedures to the student body. These best practices can set the tone for the whole year and keep everyone safe. Cybersecurity in schools is the topic of the latest episode of the Code Week podcast, where Avast CISO Jaya Baloo sits down with hosts Eugenia Casariego and Arjana Blazic to discuss “everything teachers and pupils need to know to be safe online.” 

Eugenia and Arjana ask Jaya about initiatives and activities that could support teachers with their efforts to bring coding and programming into the classroom. They also ask her how to raise awareness about cybersecurity to counter all the disruption and data theft in the education sector.

Jaya believes students are not the problem. “Really, in order for us to be able to do things at scale, we have to start with adults, not with kids,” she commented. A parent herself, Jaya has seen firsthand how the younger generation has already developed a facility with the online world.

“Kids are pretty savvy,” she said. “I find them very often very well aware that there are predators in the online world, just like there are in the real world. And as long as we let them know which steps or what agency they have in order to protect themselves, I think that’s the biggest service we can do for them – not to underestimate their intelligence, but merely to give them additional knowledge and resources.” She advised teaching them about simple security tools, like VPNs, antivirus, and the benefits of continually updating. 

She also proposed a clever way to communicate with students about these tools – by posting about them on their own favorite platform. She said, “I don’t know why we don’t have a sort of viral TikTok account that is really talking about, ‘Hey guys, this is what you should know,’ and actually recruiting some of these influencers to do this as a sort of public service announcement for keeping kids safe online.” It would be a bonus if those influencers could also teach good digital citizenship, as many students have learned how to create and use cyberattacks.

As for helping the teachers support the students, Jaya feels that can come about if teachers are given more funding, more time, and adjustments to their coursework. “I think the idea is very often that they just don’t have the time to add this to their curriculum,” she said. “I think if we don’t equip our teachers with the time and the funding, we are lost.” And what does Jaya think teachers should do with that time and funding? 

“I think the biggest thing is to try to figure out not to have a separate computing class or a separate coding class, but how to best integrate that into other areas,” she reasoned. By blending coding and safe online practices with other areas, students could receive a more practical lesson in programming, and the tech would be demystified for parents, teachers, and students alike. The best situation would be for all to learn together how to navigate the online world. Misinformation, fake apps, malicious websites, phishing emails – these are the online pitfalls that should be discussed and explained in class for all to learn."

Listen to the full short-but-packed Code Week episode to hear the whole discussion. And if any student you know is considering a career in tech, give them Jaya’s sage advice: Dream big, but think even bigger. 

Happy schooldays, everyone!

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