How to Teach Students Password Safety

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Around a billion people had their data compromised in 2018. Tens of millions of dollars were lost, nearly 20 million identities were stolen, and if you’ve received an odd call from an unknown number, chances are your number was given away.

You might think your details and data are at the mercy of digital masterminds who break codes with the finesse of the Pink Panther.

But the reality is we value experience over safetyease of use over security.

No-one wants to remember a unique password or to type it in several times a day. Compounding this affair with fluid access, we – regular people – tend to think we’re less at risk than our fellows (check out this great article on Denial Syndrome on why this is).

When we teach students about password safety, we’re attempting to have developing minds battle against human nature. To help them triumph, here’s 3 easy principles to start with:

3 easy rules for password safety

Don’t use personal information – not your name, age, date of birth, pets name etc. These are easy to guess!

Use special characters – any of the characters above the numbers on your keyboard, like !, #, ^, and &. Also, use a mix of capitalisation and lower-case letters for extra security.

Have a different password for every account – if one of your accounts gets broken into, you’ll want your other ones to be safe!

2 advanced password safety tips

If you think your students are savvy enough, you can introduce two more concepts: 2FA and Password Managers.

2FA – two-factor authentication. This is a way for applications to check that it’s you trying to access the account outside of password knowledge. It could be an email sent to your account, a text, or a prompt through an app. You can set up 2FA in most applications.

Password managers – digital vaults for all your passwords. They can store your information and credentials as well as suggest strong passwords for your accounts – check out some of the top-rated password managers for 2019 here.

Teaching password safety

The best way to teach students about password safety is to see it in action – so we devised this game:

Secret Hackers

Here’s what you need:

A piece of paper or post-it notes for every student

3-5 students you can trust with a secret

How to play the game:

At the start of the day, every student gets a piece of paper and writes down:

  • A password
  • Three of their favourite items

Tell the whole class you are the hacker, and that at the end of the day you’re going to try to guess students’ passwords.

Here’s the twist

Before you play the game (the previous day or in the morning) pick a handful of students to be your secret hackers. Their job throughout the day is to find out what their classmates’ passwords and let you know.

When you feel like you have enough of the passwords, you can start ‘guessing’ students’ passwords. For every correct guess, take that student’s post-it note. Their favourite items now belong to you!

To wrap-up the class, reveal which students were your co-conspirators and emphasise the two lessons learned:

  1. Never give your password to everyone – no matter how much you might trust them
  2. Anyone can be targeted, even you
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