Triggering Cyber Safety With a Symbol


St. Ambrose students love a challenge. Present a problem and they deliver a solution.

That was the result of a challenge issued by the Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) department. They asked students from all majors to find a way to communicate cybersecurity threats and trigger safety with a single symbol.

The contest, Cybersafety in the Community, garnered 15 teams and individuals who worked for about a month to identify threats and create symbols to illustrate them. On April 10, the winning design was announced and all entries were displayed at the Rogalski Center.

Jenna Vrombaut, a graphic design student, received the Judge's Award. She played on the "Bee" theme and designed a honeycomb key to remind students to use secure passwords.

"The ultimate reward for an artist is to have your work be seen," she said. "I am super excited my design was chosen. I tried to make it as simple as possible so anyone who sees it will be reminded to use smart passwords."

Faculty from the CIS and Art departments judged the submissions based on visual impact and the cybersecurity message they intended to communicate. Then, at the event, they opened judging to everyone and announced a second winner.

A team of students from the Introduction to Cybersecurity course – Bryan Liggis, Brett Hippler, Brendin Davis, and Brenden Sramek – won the popular vote. They submitted designs for three common cybersecurity threats.

Hippler, a Computer Network Administration major, said they identified keywords for each cyber threat and used graphics to represent the word.

"For example, we used fish bait in the phishing logo," he said, adding each logo was designed to be a desktop icon or sticker.

"The most challenging part of the project was piecing everything together in a way that anyone could understand when they see the logos. We had to design them so they could be universally identifiable," he said. "Our goal was to spread awareness of cyber-attacks by using tools such as these."

"All of the students and teams put a lot of thought into their designs," said Sayonnha Mandal, PhD, CIS assistant professor.

She was impressed by the variety of threats identified and how the designs could be used. Students created symbols that could be affixed to things - such as a poster on a wall or a sticker on a computer - and posted within things, such as a website banner or desktop background.

The contest increased awareness for cyber safety in the weeks before the winners were announced. Mandal said faculty and students stopped her to talk about cyber threats, and the CIS Alumni Council was excited to learn SAU students were advancing the topic of cyber safety in the Quad-Cities.

"The thought behind the contest was appreciated," Mandal said, "and the safety messages were lacking. Our students did fill a void in this area. I hope the contest sparks more interest and conversation."

The next step is to share the symbols with the campus community, whether through email, posters, or other avenues. Eventually, Mandal would like to find a way to share the symbols – and see them posted – throughout the Quad Cities.

The contest was part of the SAU College of Arts and Sciences Academic Theme, Visual Narratives. In the 2019-20 academic year, the university is exploring the many ways in which visual narratives engage with contemporary and historical realities. The theme draws upon multiple interdisciplinary modes of production and performance, including comics, film, theatre, printmaking, photography and dance.

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