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Obama’s 21st Century New Deal Needs to Include Cyber Ethics Training

Dec 07, 20084 mins
IT Leadership

President-elect Barack Obama offered a sweeping set of proposals to upgrade critical infrastructures as well as skill sets across the nation in order to kick-start the economy. His weekly address, delivered as a YouTube video from, included several major technology initiatives like giving more computers to schools. But we’d better not forget security and cyber ethics as we role out the new plan. Here’s why…

First some background, the President-elect’s latest weekly address is an important message to watch.  Politico did a nice job of describing the plan. Here’s one excerpt:

BROADBAND: “As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m president – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.”

Of course, I agree. But just as accountability is now being required of Wall Street and the Big 3 Autos, we need to ensure that more broadband and additional laptops in schools will be enabling the good and disabling the bad online. We need both training and accountability for those who will be getting the new technology.

Why? Allow me to point to other hot headlines from last week.  The Associated Press ran a story last Sunday entitled: Students lie, cheat, steal, but say they’re good

 In a survey conducted by the Josephson Institute:

Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.

Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.

Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money — 49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.”

The report goes on to describe the apathy about ethics in society among students and adults. And yet, we are surprised by Enron? In my view the numbers probably under-report the problems. Others, such as the Josephson Institute’s Center for Youth Ethics, agree. Here’s what they say:

“As bad as these numbers are, it appears they understate the level of dishonesty exhibited by America’s youth. More than one in four (26 percent) confessed they lied on at least one or two questions on the survey. Experts agree that dishonesty on surveys usually is an attempt to conceal misconduct.

Despite these high levels of dishonesty, the respondents have a high self-image when it comes to ethics. A whopping 93 percent said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character and 77 percent said that when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

So how do these topics of ethics, broadband and more computers for schools come together?  There are many studies showing how technology can enhance cheating.  

While conducting research for my book Virtual Integrity, I also found significant evidence for the renaming of other unethical behaviors online. For example, few students called the illegal downloading of music or other copyright files “stealing.” This survey didn’t even address electronic copying (stealing) of music or videos. Yes, there are cyber security issues that need to addressed when rolling out more connectivity and devices, and those topics also need to be well thought-out before deployment. We need to do these projects quickly, but we also need to do them right.

Bottom line, we need to include cyber ethics training in this new rollout. This effort can’t wait until after the technology is deployed. We need to be thinking about “people, process, and technology” as we role out these infrastructure projects that include new computers, or we will be looking at failure stats a few years from now.  More on what this new cyber ethics strategy should include in a later blog.

What are your thoughts?


Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist and author. During his distinguished career, Dan has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, including enterprise-wide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan State Government. Dan was named: "CSO of the Year," "Public Official of the Year," and a Computerworld "Premier 100 IT Leader." Dan is the co-author of the Wiley book, “Cyber Mayday and the Day After: A Leader’s Guide to Preparing, Managing and Recovering From Inevitable Business Disruptions.” Dan Lohrmann joined Presidio in November 2021 as an advisory CISO supporting mainly public sector clients. He formerly served as the Chief Strategist and Chief Security Officer for Security Mentor, Inc. Dan started his career at the National Security Agency (NSA). He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a US / UK military facility. Lohrmann is on the advisory board for four university information assurance (IA) programs, including Norwich University, University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), Valparaiso University and Walsh College. Earlier in his career he authored two books - Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web and BYOD For You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work. Mr. Lohrmann holds a Master's Degree in Computer Science (CS) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and a Bachelor's Degree in CS from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

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