Cybersecurity ambassadors open students' eyes to the dangers of identity theft

December 8, 2018

Center for Cybersecurity ambassador Carson Wilber discusses identity theft with Woodlawn Beach Middle School students.

A few Woodlawn Beach Middle School students let out audible moans while others sat in stunned silence as University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity ambassador Carson Wilber explained the dangers of posting information to the internet.

“The instant it has touched the internet you cannot say that information is safe,” Wilber said. “Anything that goes out on the internet, that information is out there forever. It doesn’t matter if you delete it. You can go on to Facebook right now and delete your entire profile, all of your pictures, download all of your data and delete it, and it doesn’t matter. It’s out on the internet with probably a hundred copies of it somewhere.”

The Center for Cybersecurity Ambassadors Program debuted in January of 2018. UWF cybersecurity students support Northwest Florida school programs and generate interest in cybersecurity education and careers among K-12 students as part of the program.

The ambassadors — Krouse, Morton, Wilber and Michael Mitchell — visit schools to share their cybersecurity expertise and increase students' cybersecurity awareness through engaging activities and demos. K-12 students learn about binary code, router attacks, encryption, password protection and other cybersecurity-related topics. 

On a Dec. 7 visit to Woodlawn Beach Middle School, the ambassadors presented to six classes taught by career and technical education instructor Kimberly Kayser. Their eye-opening presentation concentrated on the dangers of identity theft and what measures to take to protect information. In 2017, identity fraud victims in the United States increased by 8% to 16.7 million and totaled $16.8 billion in stolen funds according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

All of the students raised their hands when asked by the ambassadors if they use passwords online. The ambassadors advised the students to avoid using the same password twice, to mix in symbols and numbers, and decline when sites ask if you want to save your password.

Password protection is an important step in preventing identity theft, but the danger still exists when private information is on the internet. One of the ambassadors admitted to being one of the nearly 150 million people impacted last year by the Equifax data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and credit card numbers among other personal information. The ambassador never directly provided Equifax any information but registered for a credit card that gave the consumer credit reporting agency the private data.

“Do you have a credit card? Then you consented to it,” Morton said of those impacted by the data breach.

Wilber told the students that the information exposed by the data breach puts the ambassador in danger of identity theft. 

“All of this you can use to impersonate people,” Wilber said. “You can take this information and pretend to be someone you’re not because this is all you need to impersonate someone.”

Kayser said the ambassadors shared enlightening information and reiterated to her students to be mindful of what they share on the internet.

“If you search yourself on here, any information you have ever put on the internet, this is your digital footprint,” she said.

If interested in the ambassadors visiting your school to demo their capabilities and share educational and career opportunities, please contact us at cybersecurity@uwf.edu.