Blake's Brainiacs: Cyber Threat Defender card game for kids

DATA Middle School students prepare for tournament Saturday at UTSA

By Diana Winters - Executive Producer, SA Live

SAN ANTONIO - We all know cybersecurity is important. But what is the difference between malware and spyware? And how do you even defend against that? Forget apps – there’s now a card game that teaches kids how to prepare for a cyberattack. KSAT meteorologist Kaiti Blake finds out how it works in this week’s Blake’s Brainiacs.

“The card game is really interesting because you get to experience what real life experience you might have with computers,” said Vanessa Segura, a seventh-grader at DATA Middle School.

The game is called Cyber Threat Defender. It’s a multiplayer deck-building game for anyone age 11 and older, created by the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security, or CIAS, at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

"You hear terms like malware, phishing, data breaches, but what does that actually mean? Our game is designed to help teach them strategy of how to defend a network against cyberthreats and how it works in the real world," said Julina Macy, senior communications coordinator for CIAS.

"It's sort of like Pokemon," said Luke Morrison, seventh-grader at DATA. He’s competing in the first Cyber Threat Defender tournament on Saturday at UTSA.

"They really do love it. They are digital natives, so they have a huge amount of engagement," said Brenda Burmeister, a digital communications teacher at DATA Middle School. "I do a unit with the students on cybersecurity and personal cybersecurity, so this game really helps them have that understanding in a hands-on way."

The tournament will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the H-E-B Student Union Ballrooms on the UTSA main campus. And it’s already sold out.

"We kept it at 64 open spots for players, and we had it filled up before we had a chance to even reach out to all the teachers," Macy said.

Students will use their card decks to defend a computer network against cyberattacks. While they can choose to attack other students while playing the game, points are only awarded for defenses – a hidden ethics lesson within the game.

“To them, a lot of this is a little bit more abstract because they’re not using email as much, and a lot of the attacks are coming from email, so to have them sort of be able to preload the knowledge and protect them(selves) before they’re emailing everybody professionally, help them get that concept," Burmeister said.

While Saturday’s competition is sold out, anyone age 11 and older can still sign up on the waiting list or play the free version of the game online. Just go to the Cyber Threat Defender game website.

WEB EXTRA: Why cybersecurity is important for everyone

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