Letter: Teach Digital Security in School

Undeniably, digital literacy has become an important tool for empowerment for the next generation. Access to technologies are becoming so cheap. Hence, the future of digital inequality will revolve around digital competency. There is a lot of hype about teaching coding in schools as a means to improve digital literacy amongst the next generation.

However, there is minimal focus on educating and empowering young people to protect themselves. While there is much discussion to protect from cyber-bullying from other individuals but there is no discussion to protect their privacy from corporations. Generally, government agencies use digital data for policy-making but corporations use data to make money.

By 2050, IoT (Internet of Things) looks set to become part and parcel of our daily lives which will digitalise a lot of personal data. There is a lot of corporations lurking like ‘hungry-wolf’ to get a piece of this data for profit-making. Currently, millions of Malaysians are giving out their live-location to Google unconsciously. Not many are aware, they can switch off the “location tracking” in the settings.

It is not a coincidence when you google “Puma Shoes” and see advertisements of Puma Shoes from Zalora in Facebook. This is known as cross-tracking and cross-tracking can be used by companies to raise prices and/or persuade you to buy things you don’t want.

Millions of Malaysian households have not changed their Wi-Fi router “administration credentials”. Administration credentials are not the same as the Wi-Fi typical password but access to hardware settings of the router. The default password set by the manufacturer for router administration credentials password is “password”.

It will take me less than 1 minute to hack into someone’s router to connect to a smart-home system if the credentials were not changed and 2 minutes to view his online traffic (browsing history) that passed through the router. A year ago, I have demonstrated this vulnerability by hacking into an institution’s Wi-Fi and cut-off everyone from the internet in a public talk for educating young people on online security. Nothing has changed ever since as most of us are extremely vulnerable.

Regulators from the European Union and India have forced tech-giants to introduce features to protect privacy. Tech-giants have utilised complex algorithms to ensure systematically that such features do not gain rapid traction amongst netizens. Malaysians may need some important laws such as banning export/sharing/storing data outside Malaysia. That does not prevent MNC(s) operating in Malaysia from inviting foreign firms to set up shop to analyse our data.

There are multiple user-friendly features to protect our privacy such as “prevent website cross-tracking”, “disable location tracking”, “disable data-sharing”, etc.

Pakatan Harapan is pushing Malaysia into the industrial revolution 4.0 (IR-4.0) without providing the necessary knowledge to empower ourselves.

The digital literacy syllabus should focus on teaching coding and Microsoft Word but also how to protect their personal data, handling cyberbullying, choosing hardware with good encryption, understand equipment(s) standards (WiFi 802.11ac), setting to protect the data and laws related to online activities. Focus on teaching the laws for the public to protect themselves rather than focus on laws that will punish them.

Sharan Raj
Parti Sosialis Malaysia

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