Winning student videos make short stories out of security

A young man and woman are sitting across from each other at a wireless caf?, working on their laptops. They look up at each other and smile. The man packs up his computer and walks towards the woman to introduce himself, but takes a turn and walks out the door, having just hacked into her computer and stolen her identity.

Such is the scenario of "When You Least Expect It," a winning submission to the 2007 Educause Computer Security Awareness Video Contest by Nolan Portillo of California State University, Bakersfield.

Educause is a non-profit dedicated to advancing higher education through the use of information technology. Each year, Educause hosts a video contest to raise awareness of computer security issues. The organization awards cash prizes to students who produce videos that highlight computer security problems and the steps that can be taken to prevent them. Entries are judged on creativity, content, technical quality, and overall efficiency in promoting computer security awareness.

This year, the videos ranged from intricate graphic animations to absurd skits. Most focused on the simplest effective security techniques for the common student, such as updating anti-virus software or using a security cable to lock up your laptop. The winners stood out for their production quality and humor.

UC Davis students were eligible to enter the contest, which was announced in the winter 2007 Hypertext. Apparently none did, but the security problems and techniques presented in the videos increasingly apply to all college students and campuses.

The videos, which can be viewed through the UC Davis security web site, can be seen online.