A need to protect grandparents and elderly loved ones is the motivation behind a new St. Vrain Valley School District initiative to teach cybersecurity to seniors.
Students at the district’s Innovation Center have partnered with the Longmont Senior Center to offer a series of classes that will empower participants to protect themselves.
The idea for the classes began when one of the members of the center’s Cyber Tech Team said his grandfather was being targeted with spam, said Beth Cerrone, instructional cybersecurity and technology manager with the center.
“We had this broader conversation about senior citizens being very attackable — they’re one of the highest attacked groups of people,” Cerrone said. “We started talking as a team and saying, ‘OK, what can we do to help?’”
Cyber Project Team Lead Sienna Arellano reached out to the senior center, and began working with her team to develop a curriculum.
“In this growing field of cyber crime, it is important to stay cyber safe and we hope this project will increase cyber safety awareness among our local community,” Arellano said.
The central goal is to protect seniors from a variety of social engineering attacks, phishing scams, password security problems and viruses, Cerrone explained.
“A lot of seniors are so fearful — we want them to still enjoy technology, but also to be cautious,” she said.
The Cyber Tech Team used the Air & Space Forces Association’s CyberGenerations initiative — which also aims to protect senior citizens — as inspiration, Cerrone said.
“We took that curriculum and made our own, and adapted it to our group and audience,” she explained.
The young tech students have grown up in a very different world than seniors, so practice training sessions have been held to help the students understand how to communicate properly.
“There have been four or five seniors sitting in, and they have basically been doing mock presentations and getting feedback, such as ‘seniors would like this,’ or ‘slow down your talking’ … things they might not necessarily think about,” Cerrone explained. “It’s really been quite cool to see these two generations working together, and I think it’s been invaluable for both groups of people.”
The students are gaining essential communication skills through the initiative, she said.
“What I hear from industry a lot, is that what is lacking are the soft skills — being able to pitch an idea, do a presentation in front of a group of people you don’t know — things like that are kind of invaluable.”
The students are planning sessions from 3:30-5 p.m. on March 7, 14, 28 and April 4. Those who wish to register are asked to call the Longmont Senior Center at 303-651-8411.
If the cybersecurity sessions are a success, the Innovation Center’s Cyber Tech Team plans to expand the initiative to possibly host more sessions or work with assisted living facilities and retirement homes, Cerrone said.