W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 10 -- Thou shalt not vandalize Web pages. Thou shalt not shut down Web sites. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s MP3s.
FBI agents are spreading a new gospel to parents and teachers,hoping they’ll better educate youths that vandalism in cyberspacecan be economically costly and just as criminal as mailbox bashingand graffiti spraying.
The Justice Department and the Information TechnologyAssociation of America, a trade group, has launched theCybercitizen Partnership to encourage educators and parents to talkto children in ways that equate computer crimes with old-fashionedwrongdoing.
The nascent effort includes a series of seminars around thecountry for teachers, classroom materials and guides and a Web siteto help parents talk to children.
“In a democracy in general, we can’t have the policeeverywhere,” said Michael Vatis, director of the FBI’s NationalInfrastructure Protection Center, which guards against computerattacks by terrorists, foreign agents and teen hackers.
“One of the most important ways of reducing crime is trying toteach ethics and morality to our kids. That same principle needs toapply to the cyber world,” he said.
Recognizing Virtual Crime
Vatis and other FBI agents attended a kickoff seminar, titledthe National Conference on Cyber Ethics, last weekend at MarymountUniversity in Arlington, Va.
Part of the challenge: Many teens still consider computermischief harmless. A recent survey found that 48 percent ofstudents in elementary and middle school don’t consider hackingillegal.
Gail Chmura, a computer science teacher at Oakton High School inVienna, Va., makes ethics a constant in her curriculum, teachingkids about topics such as computer law, software piracy and onlinecheating.
She has argued with students who don’t see that stealing from acomputer with bad security is as wrong as stealing from an unlockedhouse.
“It’s always interesting that they don’t see a connectionbetween the two,” Chmura said. “They just don’t get it.”