Blog Pile

Session Review: Computer Hacking as an Educational Tool

Whew! I found a stellar presentation session today…. all hope is not lost . Margaret Hvatum and Gayla Stewart from St Louis Community College presented “Computer Hacking as an Educational Tool” (no web links ;-):

For education to happen, students must be interested and engaged in the subject material. Computer hacking interests students and motvates them to read, do research, talk in class, and present their findings on hackers. Since both white-hat and blach-hat hackers exist, students also learn to develop their own value systems as the class explores the topics of hackers, what they do, illegal versus immoral behaviors, and appropriate versus inappropriate use of technology.

More or less, this is an excellent approach for a freshman new student experience course, where they learn some literacy, research, and writing skills. What was also good about this session was that it was only half lecture format, as the second half, participants engaged in a scnerio activity that had as look at different viewpoints on the issue of hacking.

Some notes follow…

Cornerstone Course– freshman, gen ed requirement, teaches valuing, study skills, writing/speaking skills, basic computer skills, critical thinking

“Sounds Boring, right?” How can you get students to WANT to read 3 books and be willing to write 8 papers?”

Pick a topics they had not studies, seems relevant, has air of illicit mystery, involves youthful peers facing tough decisions, is an ethical gray area, allows students to evolve their own positions

How is hacking a “gray area”? hackers have
* broken into systems
* have written viruses, gone to jail
* get involved in criminal activity
* are creative problem-solvers
* hav ehelped US counter-terroist task force
* wrote software that started microcomputer revolution
* started game industry
* built personal computers before there was an industry
* pressure industry to improve software

Course Design
* Read 3 books
+ one on youthful hackers and exploits
+ one on microcomputer revolution
+ one on social engineering by Kevin Mitnick

* Library orientation, library databases, to find info on computer crimes
* learn format for 5 paragraph essay
* learn basic Word/PowerPoint
* write 8 papers using skill
* group research project and final oral presentation

Class Discussions
* group format
* lecture
* Q & A on readings
* demos
* movies
* news topics

Topics
* ethics
* ID theft
* hacking scenarios
* Slippery Slope exercise (how to justify behavior)
* poem Xanadu, what does it mean? (MIT reference to hacking as “Xanadu”)
* spectrum of hackers “script kiddies”, cult of the dead (microsoft “back oiriface”)
* hacking as positive force
* how to hack unix – Warez sites- download and demo L0phtCrack (password guessing software), shows how warez sites spread unwanted viruses just for downloading
* how to protect yourself online (anti-spyware, antivirus, web site security)
* wireless INSecurity (War Driving)
* Computer crime & seizure procedures
* role playing, understanding multiple viewpoints

Roleplaying Activity (done in this session)
(participants given playing cards, suit defines role):
* college admins
* IT staff
* IS / comp sci students
* hackers

We had about 156 minutes to develop our perspectives on a provided scenario that involved some students who skirted the firewall to be able to work on projects from off-campus, and what happened when a hacker exploited that to grab some student credit card data. Each group later presented, and the others were allowed, when passed the yellow “heckle” ball to point out flaws in the suggestion.

It was very active, one of the better done sessions I’d seen in a while. And the ideas is “brilliant!”

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.