How Do You Get Students to Think Like Criminals?

The security technologist Bruce Schneier wrote an essay a decade ago about what he called “the security mind-set,” or the ability to instinctively identify ways of subverting or compromising systems by using them in unexpected ways. “It’s far easier to teach someone domain expertise — cryptography or software security or safecracking or document forgery — than it is to teach someone a security mind-set,” he wrote.

Almost by definition, college classroom settings and the students who thrive in them are not a natural fit for the kinds of disruptive, rebellious and troublemaking instincts that lend themselves to finding new ways to compromise computers. It can be hard to reward those skills — much less teach them — in a college course where there are supposed to be clear expectations and learning objectives, well-defined grading rubrics and set schedules.

There are

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