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Teaching Computer Security Literacy to Students from Non-Computing Disciplines

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computer-Oriented Programs

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1379.1 - 22.1379.14



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Paper Authors


Joseph Idziorek Iowa State University

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Joseph Idziorek is a Ph.D. candidate studying Computer Engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, IA, USA. His research interests broadly lie in the areas of cloud computing security, distributed denial of service attacks and stream computing. Joseph is also heavily involved in undergraduate education. He currently teaches Introduction to Computer Security Literacy and assists with a number of other undergraduate courses. He has earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Engineering from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota, USA.

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Mark F. Tannian Iowa State University

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Mark Tannian is presently a Ph.D. Candidate at Iowa State University in Computer Engineering with interests in information security education, cloud computing security and information security visualization. Mr. Tannian returned to pursue a Ph.D. after 12 years of professional experience in information security and holds the CISSP credential. His professional experiences range from technical firewall support, consulting security engineer, technical product manager, senior operations security analyst, product trainer and technical sales engineer. He has earned a Bachelors of Electrical Engineering from the University of Delaware and a Master’s of Electrical Engineering from George Washington University.

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Douglas W. Jacobson Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Doug Jacobson is a University Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. Dr. Jacobson joined the faculty in 1985 after receiving a Ph.D. degree in Computer Engineering from Iowa State University in 1985. Dr. Jacobson is currently the director the Iowa State University Information Assurance Center. Dr. Jacobson teaches network security and information warfare and has written a textbook on network security. Dr. Jacobson has received two R&D 100 awards for his security technology and has two patents in the area of computer security. Dr. Jacobson has given over 50 presentations in the area of computer security and has testified in front of the U.S. Senate committee of the Judiciary on security issues associated with peer-to-peer networking.

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        Teaching Computer Security Literacy to Non-Technical StudentsGone are they days when cyber security education was only a concern for the technological elite.In today’s world of pervasive computing, everyone is a target. The volume, sophistication, andeffectiveness of cyber attacks continue to grow and show no signs of abating. At the center ofthis cyber epidemic are college students whom rely on their computers and the Internet morethan any previous generation for their educational, social, and entertainment needs. Yet thesesame students have little knowledge of the threats they face, the potential short-term and long-term consequences of their actions and the context to make informed security decisions. Thispaper outlines our approach to teaching computer security literacy to non-technical students.Educating non-technical students at the university level fills an enormous gap in cyber securityeducation. If offered at all, current security course offerings are often only available to junior orsenior students and require many perquisites of engineering or computer sciences courses. Atthe other end of the spectrum, non-technical students often find computer security advice in theform of a one page top-ten list of computer security best practices containing little to noneexplanation nor context.The focus of this paper is to describe our approach to practical computer security education.The key objective of our approach is not to delve into the technical components of computersecurity. Instead, we bring security context to the computing actions that students alreadyperform on a daily or weekly basis. In this paper we present in detail our teaching philosophy,topics of focus, approaches to engage students in the classroom with purposeful activities andinteractive demonstrations, and how current events are interwoven into the course topics.Although classroom assessment is a component of this course, the real test occurs when thestudents leave the classroom and interact with information technology.Educating students at the university is an important step to combat the larger societal problemthat exists of education all user of information technology about computer security. It is clearthat purely technical solutions cannot and will not be the answer to combat cyber criminals.Instead a unified effort is needed, educating all users of information technology from the youngto the old, technically savvy to the inexperienced. This course aims to fulfill an important pieceof a larger puzzle by providing university students with a new opportunity to explore cybersecurity and how it affects their lives as digital citizens of cyber space.

Idziorek, J., & Tannian, M. F., & Jacobson, D. W. (2011, June), Teaching Computer Security Literacy to Students from Non-Computing Disciplines Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18741

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