Are you employed in cybersecurity and raising children? Do you tell them what you do? Or rather just skip it and say that it’s just something boring? Now, this complicated profession can be easily explained by a new children’s book.
“Whether we like it or not, the younger generation is being born into an increasingly digital world. Parents and educators must help prepare them to deal with the challenges of a world where life and technology are intrinsically linked, ” says Pentera, a cybersecurity unicorn based in Tel Aviv.
The company that has just released a first-of-its kind illustrated cybersecurity book designed to help explain to kids what working in the industry actually means.
Let’s face it: if you’re a parent working in cybersecurity, it’s usually tremendously difficult to explain – in normal language – what you do. Sure, it’s complicated. But it should be possible to help kids to evolve their knowledge, Pentera’s chief marketing officer Aviv Cohen told Cybernews in an interview.
“Cyber literacy is also on our banner, and a lot of our customers admit their kids have no idea what their parents actually do. Some of the kids are saying, oh, my dad is doing something boring,” said Cohen.
“So since our digital lives are mixed with our physical lives, and it's so important, we came together and said, okay, we'll try and explain it in kids’ language.”
A different family moment
The book called “Castle Defenders: What do Cyber Parents Do?” follows young siblings Emma and Oliver as they are introduced to the world of cybersecurity, learning about the role cybersec professionals play in society through the prism of a castle in need of defense.
Admittedly, the cutely rhymed comic is quite trite but then it is marketed to children who are 5-12 years old, so including overly complicated storylines probably wouldn’t be too smart.
What’s more important is that the book, written by Dana Meschiany and illustrated by Idan Barzilay, manages to explain cybersecurity to curious kids in 32 beautiful pages.
According to Cohen, it took Pentera about four months to write the book. The company used a children’s psychiatrist to make sure the content of the comic was clean, and was really happy with the result.
“A lot of children have iPads, mobile phones, some chat capabilities or different gadgets, and understand that these things go through the internet – which is basically the world of cyber,” Cohen told Cybernews.
“But they need to be much more aware of the dangers: you need not to talk to strangers or give your passwords to people you don't know. They need to know that not everything is innocent, that not everything is what it seems. What we came up with is a nice story, I think.”
Cohen said that he and his crew were actually a bit surprised by the very positive reception of the book, now sold on Amazon – Pentera sent several early copies to cybersecurity firms and individual professionals.
“In social media posts, we see that people are digging in and having these wonderful family moments. Apparently, there's something in it,” Cohen said.
“The trick is that the kids see themselves as the children in the book – like in every good work of art. You see yourself or parts of yourself through the characters, and then the story has meaning reflecting back to you.”
A sort of recruitment call
According to Cohen, Pentera has detected a certain lack of awareness about what cybersecurity professionals do every day – unlike, for instance, teachers, police officers, or firemen.
“In society, you know their status. The teacher, of course, builds the next generation, the judge keeps things just, the fireman saves people from the fire, the police officer guards the law. But what about the status of cyber security professionals today?” Cohen told Cybernews.
He said that not many actually know that if we took down cybersecurity firewalls for just 24 hours, we immediately wouldn’t have a society.
“We wouldn’t have communication, transportation, all of finance would go down, food delivery, airports, trains – everything would stop instantly. The cybersecurity professionals deserve a salute. They are the untold heroes of our society,” Cohen said.
“They work very long hours. There is a lot of tension and long periods away from family. They don't get the appreciation that they deserve from society – and everything starts at home. So if your kids don't understand what you do they don't call their parents heroes.”
And because most children look for heroes and examples in their parents, the book, Cohen says, is almost like a recruitment tool for the industry. Pentera wants to contribute to building “the next generation of cybersecurity defenders.”
“Besides, cybersecurity is part of a nation's resilience so workers of the industry are also patriots, deserving to be honored,” Cohen told Cybernews.
The cybersecurity industry needs more and more people, by the way. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, global cybersecurity job vacancies grew by 350% from one million openings in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021.
Yes, the number of unfilled jobs leveled off in 2022 but it remains at 3.5 million in 2023, with more than 750,000 of those positions in the United States. Disparity between demand and supply is likely to remain high through at least 2025.
Safety comes first – and early
The book also provides the ten rules for cyber safety children can easily follow. To be fair, these are pretty useful for anyone – use a secret password and don’t share it around, don’t open emails from unknown addresses, only visit websites you know are safe and secure.
However, Cohen says once again that it’s always better to start being careful at an early age. He told Cybernews he didn’t feel comfortable with teenagers and smaller children spending four to six hours a day online on their own, with no supervision.
“That's no man’s land,” Cohen said, signaling his support for new regulations such as the United Kingdom’s Online Safety Bill (explained here). “We want and need to protect our children. Education starts at home, and we definitely can look over our kids’ shoulders and put some kind of filters.”
Most importantly, Cohen added, children should be given tools to protect themselves online and taught how to use them. If the world cannot defend kids from harmful online material, the parents should take initiative themselves.
“There’s a lot of crime out there. Children can be exploited for money, they can become bridges to their parents and households. Basically, children are the attack surface so we should protect and teach them to protect themselves,” Cohen told Cybernews.
That’s also why the book is not too simple. Pentera wanted playfulness, sure, but the firm also wished to reflect the fact that there’s no magic in cyber.
“We sort of needed to make it real, to break it all down, and explain why the long hours are there – that it’s not trivial. Yes, it’s a castle the parents are defending but it has 100 million windows and doors,” said Cohen.
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