Creating awareness on threats online and precautions to be taken against them

RTC: Royal Thimphu College (RTC), Ngabiphu, Thimphu. It is 9.40 am; Thursday. The day is grey, and the sky pregnant with rain. But it is warm and pleasant. Thick verdure surrounds the campus filled with myriad flowers. It is almost heaven.

A small head shows up from the steps between the college’s academic building and the quiet cafeteria. Richly denuded, this little head takes a regal form as it comes closer to where I stand, coffee in my hand. I follow this small yet majestic figure.

Thakur Singh Powdyel, president of RTC, is a formidable man indeed. He turns back and smiles. He holds my hand and we walk together to the executive centre, where the final year BCA students have set up an exhibition on cyber security awareness.

“Sir, please give us five minutes,” says Vijay Gurung, head of Faculty of IT and programme leader of BCA. The president almost stands up from the cozy chair where he is sitting at the executive centre. He smiles and says instead: “You can have six. Please carry on.”

Cyber security awareness exhibition is the first of its kind in the college, in fact, in the whole of the country. The college planned the exhibition to teach the students the threats they will face and precautions they could take. Digital advantages come with some serious price indeed.

The moment has come, finally. The final set up didn’t require six minutes that the president had them have lavishly. He opens the exhibition with a quiet prayer. The first wall shows cyber crimes in Bhutan. Statistics are revealing of a nation that marched in haste.

“We are a trusting society. That trust seems to be naïve,” says Thakur Singh Powdyel. After a long, philosophical pause, he continues: “We are slowly moving away from the age of innocence.” He has turned grave. There is certain light in his eyes that is more than just heavy.

Time has come for us to “protect the integrity of our people. We are so vulnerable today,” he says, and moves on to the next table. A students shows him how hacking happens and what could be done to prevent data loss. 

“Sadly, there is no limit to mischief, indeed,” says Thakur Singh Powdyel, adequately surprised by the confidence in his student. “With all our genius, we are still a step behind mischief makers.”

Now students come in droves. It is first year BA Eco/Evs students who have free time between sessions. They swarm the exhibition ground.

Tshering Tobden, a student, is excited. New knowledge has had him overwhelmed.

“I knew for the first time how we must secure ourselves in this age. This exhibition taught me some of the most important things that we need today to guard ourselves from ever-rising treat to personal and public life,” says Tshering Tobden.

Ugyen Dema, another student, said that from now on, she will think twice before posting any content or clicking on any link online.  “Security threat is increasing by the day. Our acts may be small and harmless, but repurcussions could be dangerous.”

“I hope the weather holds,” says Thakur Singh Powdyel, gazing skyward. It is now dark-grey. He hold up a pledge board and stands for a picture. He takes another picture with his young ‘cyber security force’.

More students come and the exhibition ground is filled with sounds and colours innumerable.

Purna Maya Gurung, a student, said she found the exhibition enlightening. “I have come across some embarrassing posts on my friends facebook page. Now I know how to deal with such infringements. This exhibition is really helpful.”

The exhibition is a big success. “We have been invited to conduct exhibition at Ugyen Academy in Punakha,” says Vijay Gurung, beaming with pride. President suggests collaboration with other learning centres where young people are.

“These are extremely important literacy,” says Thakur Singh Powdyel.

It is not yet noontide and the presentations by experts have started in a hall in the executive centre. There are representatives from Bank of Bhutan and University of Oklahoma, the USA.

By Jigme Wangchuk