Cybersecurity researchers from Abertay University have developed a tool aimed at protecting children when using computers.
‘Kidzpass’, which is designed specifically for children aged from three to five years old, allows them to use images instead of words for computer passwords.
The new tool could help boost safety and help children who struggle to use written passwords when logging into computers at school or nursery.
Rather than using words, the tool asks children to click on a recognisable face, which could be that of a relative or family friend. Kidzpass also removes the need for password sharing, researchers from Abertay said.
Ethical Hacking student Michaela Stewart, who helped develop the tool, insisted it was important for children and young people to understand the value of passwords.
“Many children in Scotland are required to use passwords effectively to log into computer systems at school as part of the Curriculum for Excellence,” she said. “This makes a lot of sense, but it can be complicated for younger children who are often unable to read or write. That results in children sharing passwords, or teachers typing them in; making it difficult for kids to understand the importance of keeping passwords private.”
Stewart added that while Kidzpass is not the “ideal first lesson for children in cybersecurity”, it will allow kids to develop good cyber hygiene habits by using information unique to them.
“What’s more, children often require passcodes to get in through school doors,” she added. “That’s information we wouldn’t necessarily want them to share. Kidzpass allows children to use information unique to them to log into computers in a simple and safe way.”
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Dr Suzanne Prior, lecturer in Ethical Hacking at Abertay, echoed Stewart’s comments, adding that positive habits developed at an early stage can be carried on into adulthood and help build a more cyber-confident generation.
“At face value, you might wonder why young children need unique passwords. However, recent research suggests that teenagers and millennials have poorer password habits than older adults. This is obviously surprising as they have grown up with technology and security messages,” Prior said.
“The hope is that by improving password habits at a young level, this can be carried on into adulthood and we can have a generation of people who’re more cybersecurity confident.”