Hack with Espoo teaches upper secondary school students how to stay on the right side of the law

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2019-11-04 9:32

The lights are dim in the Otasali hall, but the audience is fully awake as Benjamin Särkkä goes through the history of hacking from the 1990s to the present day. Students from Espoo’s upper secondary schools and Omnia are listening intently, even though it is already late in the afternoon.

Benjamin Särkkä is known as the founder of the Disobey hacking event and as a white hat hacker who works as an IT security specialist at Nordea.
“The perspective on what is an essential danger online has changed. In the past, amateur hackers wanted to test what they could access, but now hacking is more and more often linked to organised crime.”

Information security is important

Most of an average person’s information is not of interest to hackers, but everyone’s IT resources can be utilised and sold.

“For example, selling webcam video links for criminal purposes could be an essential issue. Information has become valuable at societal level. Money plays a key role as an underlying factor,” Särkkä says when students ask what criminals are interested in.

Särkkä uses a great deal of specialised terminology, but even if you are not familiar with the topic, you understand how you can and should take care of your information security. A good password protects your accounts. A strong password is long enough, which means that it contains many characters. Secondly, a good password contains various letter and number combinations.

“I felt like I had to change my passwords,” said Claudelle Klutse, a student from Espoon yhteislyseon lukio, after the lecture.

Students have welcomed the Hack with Espoo course with enthusiasm. “Hacking sounds interesting, and I went along because I’m not familiar with the subject,” Claudelle Klutse says.

The highly popular course was organised for the first time in the autumn of 2018 for upper secondary school students in Espoo. The city was asked to continue offering the course, so again this autumn young people are able to learn about responsibility, hacking tools and information security. In addition to upper secondary school students, this is the first time that Omnia’s information and communications technology students also had a chance to take part in the course.

Students hack the Sanoma Pro Kampus learning environment 

The City of Espoo has organised the course together with its partner companies. The information security company Second Nature Security (2NS) has the main responsibility for teaching, and the other partners supporting and enabling teaching are LähiTapiola, Sanoma Pro and Cisco. In addition, the course features lecturers from both hacker communities and public organisations.

Young people will be able to hack the Sanoma Pro Kampus learning environment at a workshop on 8 November. At the workshop, 2NS hackers will teach the students to use different tools for controlled exploration of information networks.

“We will also give the young people an opportunity to explore the city’s information networks,” says Matti Parviainen, Chief Information Security Officer from the City of Espoo. The aim is to expose vulnerabilities in the systems, which will not only help businesses but also the city to improve information security. 

“I’ve always been interested in information technology. I’ve taken all IT courses offered by our school except this one. I feel that Hack with Espoo is a good addition because I was not familiar with hacking. I look forward to the workshop,” says Robin Kvist, a student from Otaniemen lukio.