What is Cyberfluency? (Blog Post #2)

The term “digital native” gets passed around a lot nowadays. Originally, the term was coined Marc Prensky to describe children after the information revolution primarily to highlight the learning needs of these new youth. He argued that they would view the world in a different way after being exposed at a young age to the wonders of the internet. In his actual writing, he tries to expose many of the negative effects of on-demand culture on modern children however, modern use of the term carries a more positive connotation referring to how easy it appears for children born into the information age to use computers. Unfortunately, this is just an appearance. The common use of this term alone shows that the motivation exists but without backup, this motivation goes unutilized.

As we talked about last week, by the time digital natives get to college they’ve lost this technical drive and are suffering for it. Marc Scott has a really excellent post on a similar subject. I won’t go too far into detail on it since you should read it but he basically pulls lyrics from The Offspring and says “the kids aren’t alright.” He argues that, while the drive and motivation exist, developing minds aren’t given the tools the become cyberfluent. They become facebook-fluent, youtube-fluent, and meme-fluent but for all their time they are never given the resources or direction to really understand the computers they use daily in a valuable way.

Cyberfluency is exactly as it sounds: fluency in cyber security. Although the problem exists elsewhere besides in security, I’ll be focusing on this field because of it’s reaching effect on those without a working fluency in the field.

Here’s a test to see if you are cyber fluent:

Explain the following sentence:

“[Superfish has] the same root CA private-key for every computer. This means that hackers at your local cafe Wi-Fi hotspot, or the NSA eavesdropping on the internet, can use that private-key to likewise intercept all SSL connections from Superfish users,”

  • Robert Graham as quoted by Thomas Fox-Brewster for Forbes (article)

If this had you scratching your head you might not be fluent.

On a basic level, what this means is that affected users could visit seemingly secure lookalikes of trusted sites (banks, facebook, etc.) only to enter their credentials right into an attacker’s site. There’s more implications than just that example but at minimum, that should concern you if you have a Lenovo brand laptop. Sadly, I have encountered numerous classmates who, after the second, and now third time this has happened have failed to show enough concern to protect themselves.

Cyberfluency is not mastery or expertise in the field of cyber security but a simple working knowledge of the tools and services you use every day. You use a Certificate Authority (CA) every time you open an SSL (encrypted/HTTPS) session to Facebook. Ask you technofile kids if they know the implications of Lenovo’s shenanigans and judge for yourself if they are cyberfluent or just natives to Facebook.

Join me every week as I explore this type of literacy, cybercrime, and the problem’s educational root. You too can become cyberfluent and I hope I can help get you there.

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What is Cyberfluency? (Blog Post #2)

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