Myths about ISIS vs. terrorism versus an imagined terrorist

Written by Jenny Tilly for CNN

“I can say that ISIS continues to threaten to attack Belgium, so I will need to monitor that situation.” — a 10th grade history teacher in Bruges, Belgium

“We ask ourselves, are there terrorists in the classroom? The answer is probably yes. If we have good collaboration with social workers and the police, and if we are diligent enough, you can find (them) when they do something bad.” — a 2nd grade teacher in Anderlecht, Belgium

ISIS is part of our daily vocabulary, and sadly, educators are aware of that. When students look around and spot suspicious individuals on the streets, the first response might be to lock the doors, pull down the blinds, and check under desks. But are there criminals among us as well? We bring to work people with a real lack of knowledge of how to use the Internet responsibly. Terrorists are always looking for ways to bring their activities to a wider audience. Most people don’t pay attention and are unaware that cybercriminals are lurking just a click away.

A possible example would be an email stating that a family member has fallen ill, but requires immediate delivery to their U.S. address. The cybercriminal might present some strange detail about the email message, try to grab a few personally identifiable information (PII) and link them to another site you don’t understand to lure you into a fake banking website. Once there, the cybercriminal can take the information they have extracted from the victim and obtain funds from their personal accounts.

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Being aware and giving the authorities the information they need to stop this from happening before a problem gets out of hand is important, but we still have to ask if this is preventing bad actors from infiltrating our schools.

Don’t worry, I am not a government official or something of the like — I’m just an educator. According to the European Union, 88% of attacks on the EU’s critical infrastructures were carried out by cybercriminals in 2016. Which means cyber criminals can be connected to a host of schools, vocational institutes, colleges, universities, research institutes, healthcare establishments, well-known companies and institutions.

In 2016, there were over 1,400 Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection (CISPA) requests by EU Member States (EU28) reported to the European Security Research Centre. This was an increase of 33% over 2015 figures.

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In addition to the cybercriminals targeting educational institutions, there is a pandemic taking place in the classrooms. We talk about the five deadly sins when it comes to language — taking, stealing, lying, coveting and gluttony. Now add an eighth to that list: Fear. Often cyber criminals place these threats in the context of the world around us, and in the context of the institution they wish to change, their allegiance, their love, and so on. The consequences are dire: We see the heartbreaking consequences of a shooting at a Florida high school, or of an attack at a London mosque. School shootings and attacks on mosques have led to a rise in hate crimes in the U.K.

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