Meet Ina Wanca

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CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community — what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.

Ina Wanca

Ina Wanca is an adjunct professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and an adjunct at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. As a director of cybercrime prevention, Wanca leads the Crime Commission’s efforts to bring technology and people together to prevent and reduce cybercrime.

What would you like people to know about you?

I am a futurist who dreams, discusses, researches, and creates concepts to inform and educate others on the most cutting-edge and disruptive issues related to artificial intelligence (AI). Fundamentally, I like solving puzzles. My background is in law, cybersecurity, and policy. My passion and research focus on the decision-making and cyber-physical security of autonomous systems in smart cities.

At work, I design cognitive applications to build vigilant and resilient cyber communities through technology-enabled learning applications. Essentially, I use data-driven approaches to craft predictive prevention initiatives and reduce crime through cyber learning platforms.

How did you get started in cyberlearning?

It is estimated that 70 to 90% of cyber breaches rely on human input and are due to preventable human error. This staggering amount of preventable human error in regard to cybercrime suggests that Internet users need to improve their security and privacy behaviors. Because most cybercrimes use deception to trick users, the weakest link to any cybersecurity chain remains the individual person. Young people are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks because they are more likely to share personal information online about themselves and their friends and are often unaware of what information needs protection and how security behaviors can affect others.

Hence, the understanding of human psychology, human security, cybersecurity, and AI, as well as their intersection, creates opportunity for the development of an educational platform that will improve users’ meta-cognitive and meta-affective awareness about cybersecurity. The Crime Commission believes that if technology plays a role in the commission of cybercrime, then technology can be used to influence an individual’s behavior or modify environmental circumstances to improve poor cyber habits.

Because of this concept, we have created a few technology-enabled learning platforms that aim to promote good cyber habits and cyber ethics among Internet users, increase cybercrime prevention knowledge and awareness of how cyber-attacks occur, and generate feedback for future cyber learning programs.

Harnessing the power of technology, we can enhance the effectiveness of crime prevention and improve public safety. Our prevention model aims to change the behavior of online users and empower them to behave responsibly.

To accomplish our prevention goal, we decided to test users’ cyber knowledge, assess their current cyber hygiene, and at the same time motivate users to behave responsibly through learning. We conducted a study to map different intelligent platforms and figure out which can better serve our mission.

Results from the literature review show that secure systems are social-technical systems—dependent on the behavior of both humans and autonomous machines. Future built environments will be cybernetically enhanced and cognitive enabled; therefore, cybersecurity and other types of trainings can benefit from affect-recognition design.

In our work with intelligent tutoring systems (ITS), we use theories of affect recognition and cognition to stimulate and engage learning on topics of cybercrime prevention and workforce development. Affect-recognition methods have been evaluated at Wayang Outpost ITS, where students improved learning after only two classes. The advantage of using such systems is that recognition of affect occurs on a real-time basis.

This summer, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburg, we developed the first rule-based intelligent tutoring system to teach students how to recognize phishing e-mails. The aim of the cognitive tutor is to interpret the student’s behavior and keep track of how well the given student identifies problematic areas of phishing scams. The advantage is that the tutor gives immediate feedback to the student on an incorrect answer and it also includes hints to help students with challenging questions. The tutor support learning-by-doing.

Who would your ideal cyberlearning partner be and why?

Our ideal partners would be academic institutions that have innovation labs and have developed theories and prototypes of personalized technology-enabled learning platforms. We also want to partner with private institutions that invest in digital citizenship and workforce development programs. As we move forward, we would like to improve our ongoing cyberlearning projects and share our vision for safe and secure cyber communities with a wide range of stakeholders. Building on promising impacts from prior cyber learning projects, we are designing two additional transformative solutions to build vigilant and resilient cyber communities through technology-enabled learning applications:

  • Impossible Passwords™ is a cybercrime prevention data-driven game in Unity to enhance effective learning about strong password protection.
  • Work.Train.Forward™ is an affect-aware (emotional) intelligent tutoring system that trains, develops, and tests the skills of high-risk youth.

As technology pushes new boundaries, our team is restlessly continuing to design and develop innovative solutions for effective and data-driven crime prevention through changing the behavior of users and enhancing their knowledge about cybersecurity. Predictive analytics and behavior recognition tools will not only enhance students learning capabilities but will also help students self-regulate their weakest points of behavior. Understanding how behavior affects security will be an advantage in tomorrow’s academic institutions.

How would you like to contribute back to the cyberlearning community?

We seek to productively engage partners in order to design cutting-edge cybercrime prevention programs that will make the most needed and effective impact possible. Moreover, our cyberlearning initiatives aim to learn how students interact with technology and to assess the impact of technology as an educational tool. An analysis of the data collected from participants will reveal if students are likely to change their security behaviors after completing each cyberlearnig program. This is important because understanding what motivates people to act is more than half of the cybersecurity improvement battle.

We are happy to share preliminary results from our programs with the cyberlearning community and exchange feedback for future cyberlearning initiatives.