Hacking grandma, hacking exams, losing phone privileges and fighting trolls

Issues Team Blogs go out on Mondays, but more often than not they get written on Sundays...This Sunday was of course Fathers' Day, so I thought that I'd give the blog a bit of a family flavour...

Hacking grandma

This week 14-year-old New Zealander James Zingel recognised his mother's concern over his grandmother's well-being, and decided to do something about it. He made a device out of a Raspberry Pi, an infrared motion sensor and a camera. Every morning his grandmother feeds her dog, this sets off the detector and an image is emailed to James' mother letting her know that everything is alright. .According to James, Gran doesn't like being bothered with "check in calls," this seems like a good solution.

Where's the Internet connection here? Well the 'Gran Check' box uses the Internet as a way to deliver these images out to James' mum, but more importantly, James credits the Internet for much of his digital maker education. Good on ya James, keep up the good work, we can't wait to see what you're up to next.

If you need some help with your next project then keep an eye on the InternetNZ grants rounds and make a submission, we're always eager to help people with great ideas.

How much does your kid hate exams? This lad hacked his government to skip them

High school is a difficult time for kids. Society wants them to grow up and be independant, but seems to spend all its time telling them what they can and can't do. This tension gives us all sorts of stories about students rebelling.

I offer 'no comment' on a situation where a young reckless student may or may not have started a petition to ban 'compulsory cross-country runs' in his past.

The student in our next story goes a bit further than that though. Unhappy about the fact exams had been scheduled at the same time as Sinhala/Hindu New Year, a 17 year old student hacked the Sri Lankan President's website and changed the homepage to a message urging him to intervene. He then seems to double down and adds some non-coordinated disclosure into the mix by adding "Furthermore, take care of the security of Sri Lankan websites. Or else we will have to face a cyber war."

Well just like our young cross-country activist, he soon learnt that it's not WHAT your message is, it's HOW you go about getting it across that can get you into trouble. He will reportedly face up to three years in jail and a fine of 300,000 Rupees ($2,000) if convicted. If you have something important to say, there's going to be a right and a wrong way to do it. Choose the right way and people will listen, the wrong way and your message will be forgotten.

Sacred Heart College in Lower Hutt lets students use cellphones only at lunchtime

Continuing the theme of students pushing the boundaries at school. Lower Hutt's Sacred Heart College has introduced a rule that means cellphones are not to be used during school hours. This includes in class, walking between classes or at morning tea. They are only permitted to be used in the lunch break, or if the phone is being used as a learning tool in class.

We're InternetNZ. We don't like it when people ban access to the Internet. Not only is it normally a slippery slope, it's normally pretty easy for people to get around. That's why I am glad to see that it's not a blanket ban. The school allows the students to use the devices if they were "being used as a learning tool in class." Nigel Hanton, principal of Wellington High, says that students there could use their phones if they needed to during class, but there were times when a teacher could direct students to put them away.

The Internet can be an awesome learning and communication tool. It can also be a constant distraction and a vehicle for harassment and bullying. We support schools in preparing our kids to make good choices when they use the Internet. A message of abstinence, or telling kids they absolutely can't do something, will probably be as effective as ever..

Feds spend $499,571 to combat online trolling

The National Science Foundation is spending roughly half a million dollars to combat "online trolling." What they mean by 'trolling' is people being paid to leave fake messages or forum posts on web pages.

"Likely the most well-known example is Russia's 'troll army,' a government sponsored group of thousands of paid bloggers that work round the clock to flood the comments sections of western publications, 'raging at the depravity and injustice of the west.'"

The researchers are looking to use all those website tracking technologies that people normally claim is an infringement on their privacy, to track the trolls. If it works, they should be able to track 'anonymous' trolls back to other posts they have made which might give more information about their identities. On the one hand the de-anonymisation of people posting on the Internet is concerning. On the other hand, it might be a useful tool which courts could use under the HDCA, to identify posters of Harmful Digital Communications.

Just like encryption, this seems like a neutral tool which can be used for both good and bad purposes.

Which is a good segue into something that InternetNZ is doing on the same subject this week...

Harassment and the Internet

Online harassment is an unfortunate reality for many Internet users, especially women. With this in mind, InternetNZ will host a session at 5pm on Thursday 8 September looking at how harassment can be prevented, dealt with and have the harm it causes addressed.

Zip over to the following page to learn more about this event: Harassment and the Internet.