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FBI cyber-ethics road show commences

'OK kids, repeat after me: I will not hack the government....'

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An FBI road show called the National Conference on Cyber Ethics, purporting to inculcate responsible computing among the nation's youngsters, kicked off at Marymount University near Washington this weekend with National Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIPC) Director Michael Vatis calling for broad educational initiatives.

"One of the most important ways of reducing crime is trying to teach ethics and morality to our kids. That same principle needs to apply to the cyber world," Vatis said.

Nuisance cyber-attacks by kids against government systems often distract the Feds from their proper role of thwarting the Forces of Darkness overseas. When such an attack occurs, the Feds "don't know if it's a terrorist or a foreign military," Vatis said. "It diverts very scarce resources of people who are trying to focus on crime, warfare and terrorism."

The Conference involves a travelling series of seminars for teachers; classroom materials and study guides; and a Web site designed to help parents figure out the difference between right and wrong, which they can then pass along to their developing sprouts.

The whole project is a collaboration between the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and heavyweight industry front group the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). The alliance has spawned the so-called Cyber-Citizen Partnership, inaugurated by US Attorney General Janet Reno and ITAA back in March of 1999.

"We cannot allow cyberspace to become the wild west of the information age," Reno said at the time. "If we are to ensure public safety and responsible computer use, then government, industry and the public must all work together."

A recent survey of approximately 50,000 school children conducted by kiddie publisher Scholastic found that forty-eight per cent of students in elementary and middle school don't consider hacking to be a crime, according to an ITAA press release. We searched for some time but were unable to locate the data anywhere on the Scholastic Web site. So for now we'll just have to take the ITAA's word for it. ®

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