Video Clip Stresses Importance of Computer Security with Two Students "Caught in the Act"

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: February 20, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The goal was simple: To raise student awareness about computer security issues. The details, however, were a little more complicated.

"Our charge was to deliver information on computer safeguards and create a buzz on campus," recalls Laura Buccilli, associate director of academic services, Computing and Information Technology, and project manager for the Safe IT @ UB project. "In order to do that, we felt we had to get and hold students' attention, but not preach."

The result is "Caught in the Act," a two-minute video clip that delivers the intended message about a serious subject in a humorous -- but still effective -- way.

Buccilli notes that other universities, among them the University of Virginia, James Madison University and the University of Wisconsin, have developed video clips about computer security issues. In fact, the U.Va. project provided the inspiration for "Caught in the Act," she says.

"We decided to do a video clip that sends a message, that would make students think twice and hopefully go to a Web-site location and get the specifics on how to keep their computers safe," she says.

While the U.Va. project adapted and modified a ad, the UB team decided to develop an original video clip.

"We wanted to get students heavily involved; we knew from the get-go that actors and script writers would come from the departments of Media Study and Theatre and Dance," Buccilli points out, noting that the two lead actors in the clip are undergraduate theatre-and-dance students, and the scriptwriter was a graduate media study student.

The IT team commissioned several scripts and put them before a student focus group to gather input. The group selected the "Caught in the Act" script over ones that focused on a runaway computer or a reality TV show format.

The "Caught in the Act" video clip uses a story line in which a male and female student talk suggestively about being able to do "dangerous" things with computers. The pair is "caught in the act" by the female student's father while illegally downloading some music. The male student then is hauled off to jail by two black-coated security agents.

Buccilli notes that during the past three years, computer security incidents "have increased tremendously" at UB, adding that there have been numerous security incidents, and last fall semester in particular there were 72 students who lost their UB IT access because their personal computers were not secured and became compromised by viruses and worms, such as blaster.

Moreover, the recording industry announced that it would prosecute persons found to be illegally downloading music, she says.

"We wanted to protect our students from being subpoenaed (by the recording industry)," she says. "We knew it was coming -- we had been reading the headlines." The video clip was a chance to get to students, to increase their awareness and point them to UB's security Web page for information about securing their IT accounts and their personal computers, she says.

"If they're going to be downloading everything and launching it, they're taking a risk," Buccilli says of students, noting that many have had to have their computers completely rebuilt. Students who have a file-sharing program, such as KazaA, on their computers should disable file sharing so that the program no longer serves material from their computer. "File-sharing programs may open up your personal computer to hackers and identity theft," she points out.

Buccilli says that the "Caught in the Act" Web page, which can be viewed at, received 10,100 hits from the end of August through mid-January. "It's received a lot of attention from students, and this summer it will get even more attention because the video clip will be played during all orientation sessions," she says.

She adds that the Office of Residence Life also regularly broadcast the video for about a month as a kind of infomercial between movies shown on the campus cable TV network.

Anyone interested in information on personal computer security can go to UB policy defining responsible use of computers and networks can be found at page.