Inadequate awareness of cybercrime and its many forms is one of the main reasons for data leaks. "Today's children are growing up in a world that's changing fast; no one can say for sure what it's going to be like. And they are often very trusting; they will share their details on line quite readily, without fully understanding the consequences. Yet, as a society, we do very little to prepare our youngsters for the virtual world," says Tim. At an early age, we tell children about the importance of locking physical doors and windows when we go out, but in the virtual world they can leave everything wide open and we don't say a thing. HackShield seeks to correct that situation by creating awareness of digital security and encouraging children to think about what is and isn't acceptable behaviour. "There's no finger-wagging. It's all about using play to get kids to identify problem areas themselves and develop a sense of ethics. What's okay and what isn't? What are the consequences of doing this or that on line? We try to get them thinking, so that they're less likely to fall victim to cybercrime."
Gamification and storytelling
Om aan te sluiten bij de belevingswereld van deze doelgroep, kinderen van 11 en 12 jaar, combineert Flavour gamification en storytelling. Ze passen dus gametechnieken toe voor educatieve doeleinden en combineren deze met spannende verhaallijnen. Hierdoor leren de kinderen op een speelse manier over digitale veiligheid. HackShield speelt zich af op diverse kanalen en is dus niet enkel een game. Zo begint het allemaal op een platform, de HackShield-community. Hier kunnen kinderen zich aanmelden om onder andere in gesprek te gaan met hackers en experts en samen oplossingen te vinden voor problemen rondom online privacy, maar bijvoorbeeld ook cyberpesten. Naast de nodige kennis die de jongeren opdoen op het platform, begint hier ook de verhaallijn. In prikkelende video’s spelen zowel ware karakters als fictieve figuren een rol. Deze verhaallijn vormt de aanleiding voor de uiteindelijk game. Het spel bestaat uit episodes waarin kinderen data moeten vinden en beschermen. Ze zijn zelf echt onderdeel van het verhaal en bepalen hoe het loopt. Gaandeweg worden ze geprikkeld door middel van kennisvragen. Zo leren ze de basis van hacken en komen ze erachter wat een firewall is, wat DDoS-aanvallen zijn, maar ook hoe ze identiteitsfraude herkennen en tegengaan.
Pilot: Hack Stevie
Flavour uses a combination of gamification and storytelling to capture the imagination of the target group – children aged eleven and twelve. Game-play techniques are applied to educational goals and backed up by exciting storylines. As a result, learning about on-line security is fun. HackShield isn't a single game, but a concept that youngsters can access via various channels. Everything links back to a platform known as the HackShield community. On the platform, children can log in to chat to hackers and experts, with whom they devise solutions for problems involving on-line privacy and cyber-bullying, for example. As well as providing children with the knowledge they need, the platform is the starting point for the storylines. Gripping videos featuring real-life and fictional characters provide a setting and a trigger for the game itself. The game is divided into episodes, in which players have to find and protect data. As well as featuring in the storyline, the player can influence how it develops. Along the way, focus is maintained by challenging the player to demonstrate their knowledge. So they learn what hacking entails, discover about firewalls and DDoS attacks, and pick up the know-how needed to recognise and prevent identity fraud.
Vital contribution from SIDN Fund
Successful or not, Flavour has a mission: creating heroes and preparing youngsters for the digital future. With a large team, the company is constantly developing to make the most of the project. That would not be possible without partners who believe in the project's aims. One of those partners is SIDN Fund. "SIDN Fund is great at assessing ideas and providing the support that's needed to try them out. The Fund is a really committed partner, and has put us in touch with lots of useful contacts." The contribution made by SIDN Fund has been vital, Tim believes.
A task for the wider community
Ultimately, however, the vulnerability of children in the virtual world is an issue that needs a higher profile in the wider community. "We believe that large institutions have a responsibility here," Tim continues. "So we've been approaching relevant organisations and pressing home our message that the community expects them to help resolve the problems our society faces. And we've had a really good response." Flavour wants to work with its partners to keep developing the project. The aim is to create more and more episodes so that, ultimately, children can keep playing and keep learning. Partners are invited to contribute to episodes in all sorts of ways, so that the theme of on-line security can be explored from a variety of angles. With everyone pulling together, a safer future can be built for tomorrows cyberheroes.
Want to know more?
Want to know more about HackShield? Interested to see whether there's a way for you to support the project's aims?
SIDN's mission is connecting people and organisations to promote safe and convenient digital living. SIDN Fund was set up in 2014 to support that mission. The foundation works to build a better internet for everyone by providing grants to projects that help to make the internet stronger, promote user empowerment or utilise the internet in innovative ways. By doing so, it contributes to the prosperity and wellbeing of the nation.