College students help Nampa School District with cybersecurity

Posted at 4:33 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 19:10:00-05

NAMPA — It can be challenging to spot a phishing email if you're not looking carefully. Technology continually advances and increases, and so do the threats to our personal security and data.

"That's how kind of the bad guys are, they're always learning more and getting better at their craft of hacking," said sophomore computer science student Braelyn Boerner.

Luckily, Northwest Nazarene University students are learning the same tactics for hacking and viruses, but they're using their knowledge for good.

"We are working with the Nampa School District to do a phishing campaign," said sophomore Jeffrey Fairbanks.

As part of their cybersecurity emphasis at NNU, these three students will send an email as a hacker would. The email contains an "unsafe link," which, if clicked, will direct staff to take trainings on phishing schemes and security.

"So they'll say you've been essentially phished, and these are the things to look out for, and these are the ways to avoid getting in essence reeled in the future," said associate professor of computer science Kevin McCarty.

The school district faced a cybersecurity threat last year, and they've upped their trainings since, but wanted to do more. However, hiring an expert in the field isn't always reasonable.

"[It was] a cost issue of finding how do we do it effectively and efficiently within the constraints of our budgets," said Peter Jurhs with the Nampa School District.

This collaboration is the first, but not the last. The program will potentially get students to help other districts, non-profits, and small businesses increase their security measures.

"Do you really need your password to be oh it's my first initial and last name, followed by 1234, or can I be more secure even though it kind of inconveniences me a little bit," said junior Jarrett Sheehan.