Experts urge for cyber ethics lessons for primary school pupils
They applaud Code for Fun move, but worry about rising cyber abuse
Cyber security experts have lauded the move to expose all upper primary school pupils to coding from next year.
But with cases of abuse of technological tools like AI (artificial intelligence) rising, they would like to see them taught about ethics as well.
Programs like DeepFakes and DeepNude that use AI to create fake sexually explicit images and videos are now easily accessible, and Dr Saurabh Shintre, senior principal researcher at Symantec Research Labs, foresees greater abuse.
At the RSA Conference 2019 Asia-Pacific and Japan last month at Marina Bay Sands, he showed a video he made using DeepFakes from a two-minute video sample off the Internet.
He said: "You don't even need to be an expert in AI to do this... all I needed to do was click 10 times."
He hoped there would be a compulsory segment on ethics in the coding programme launched in primary schools next year.
"It's like language.
"You may learn some bad words, but you shouldn't go around spouting them at everyone," he said.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran announced the Code for Fun programme last month.
It will see pupils learn basic coding concepts, such as the use of simple programming to control a robot.
In response to TNP queries, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said the programme does not come with an ethics component as its focus is to impart basic coding skills.
Mr Chua Chor Huat, director of the sciences branch in MOE's curriculum planning and development division, said the pupils will learn about cyber wellness through the civics education curriculum.
"Through cyber wellness lessons conducted as part of the character and citizenship education curriculum, students will learn about the characteristics of the cyber world, how they can present themselves appropriately online, and how to be responsible in the use and creation of content," he said.
"This equips them with the necessary social-emotional competencies and values to become safe, respectful, and responsible users of technology."
Mr Ilya Sachkov, the founder and chief executive officer of cyber security company Group-IB, hoped the cyber wellness lessons would use real-life examples.
He feels it is needed because some lines are blurred in the cyber world, making it difficult at times for cyber-savvy teens to fully appreciate the repercussions of their decisions.
"Crime has now also moved online, and in the cyber world, red lines might not be as clear as in the real world," he said.
"Ethical and legal awareness along with safe coding will both increase the number of people who choose to work on the 'light side' of cyberspace in cyber security, and also reduce the amount of poor-quality software and the number of victims of cybercrime."