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Program Overview

In AWIM’s new Cybersecurity Challenge, students deepen their understanding of the architecture of the internet and how it was designed to withstand both physical and electronic attacks. Throughout the challenge, students explore several physical models that simulate the movement of information through the internet; they identify problems with each model and test different enhancements to help make the network operate better and faster. They investigate the two basic components of securing data and systems: encryption (changing information from one form to another, especially to hide its meaning), and authentication (proof that something is real, true, or genuine).

After learning about these important attributes of cybersecurity while exploring network security regarding self-driving cars from a fictional car company, Jupiter Motors, students work in teams to create marketing materials to help the target audience feel more comfortable and confident about Internet security.
Lesson Plan Overview

Lesson 1 Introducing the Cybersecurity Challenge (45 min)
Students are introduced to the overarching project of the Cybersecurity Challenge: developing marketing materials to reassure consumers about major aspects of cybersecurity, including:
  • How the architecture of the internet safeguards information in case of failure
  • How information is secured—both while stored and while being transmitted through the internet
  • How users are authenticated before access to information or systems is granted
Lesson 2 Sending a Message: Simulation 1 (45 min)
Students model how information flows through the internet, and explore how protocols can help resolve issues that intercept or otherwise impact data flow. They are introduced to the Individual Research Notebooks (in which they keep their individual worksheets and notes) and the Team Marketing Research Portfolio (in which teams keep their team worksheets and compiled discussion notes).
Lesson 3 Different Senders, Different Recipients: Simulations 2 & 3 (45-90 min)
Students build on their model from the previous activity to refine how information flows through the internet. They explore how a recipient receives two messages at the same time. Then they continue to refine their model by exploring how multiple messages flow through the internet at the same time.
Lesson 4 Testing the Stability of the Model: Simulation 4 (45 min)
In the previous activity, students developed and tested two models for sending messages across the internet. In the two scenarios in this activity, students test the stability of their network as individual or groups of nodes are taken “offline.” In the first scenario, nodes are turned off and refuse to accept packets, so students must reroute their messages around the “bad nodes.” In the second, nodes accept packets but do not send them along.
Lesson 5 Bringing the Network Together (45 min)
In the previous three activities, students developed and tested models for sending messages. In this activity, students will discuss how what they have learned helps them to understand the internet and how this understanding impacts their work on the Jupiter Motors marketing materials project.
Lesson 6 Securing the Message: Using a Scytale (45 min)
In this activity, students explore a way that ancient Greeks encoded their messages, called a scytale (pronounced “skittle-ee”), which is a type of transposition cipher.
Lesson 7 Securing Messages: Using Cipher Wheels (45 min)
Students explore the additive (or Caesar) cipher, an example of a substitution cipher. Unlike the transposition cipher from the previous activity, where the letters stay the same but their position changes, with a substitution cipher, the positions stay the same but the letters change.
Lesson 8 Securing Messages: Combining Two Methods (45 min)
Students combine the two encryption methods they studied in the previous activities: transposition and substitution. They attempt to crack messages encoded using both methods to see how strong even simple ciphers can be when combined. They are given the appropriate keys to decipher messages, which shows them how having a key makes a message easier to decode. Students also explore public key encryption—a method for securely exchanging code keys and providing digital signatures to ensure that a message is authentic.
Lesson 9 Developing Cybersecurity Marketing Ideas (45-120 min)
Building on the simulations and activities they have carried out thus far, teams develop their marketing plans for Jupiter Motors.
Lesson 10 Presenting Cybersecurity Marketing Ideas (90 min)
Student teams share their final cybersecurity marketing ideas with the class and, ideally, invited guests. Each team presents its idea and discusses how it thinks its marketing pitch would help the target audience feel more comfortable with the security of the internet.
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