“Not all viruses give you the sniffles. Not all zombies are human. Behind the calm of everyday life lies digital chaos.” ~ The Cynja.
It was Heather Dahl’s 5-year-old nephew Grant who put her on the path to entrepreneurship. One day Dahl discovered Grant battling dragons. When she good naturedly challenged him to fight “real bad guys”, like the ones who lurk in our computers, he didn’t understand what she was talking about but loved the idea of battling malware. So, she set off to find a children’s book on cyber-criminals and malicious computer programs – to teach him about her world. To her surprise, there were none to be had.
“Children today embark on life in two interconnected worlds, the physical and the virtual,” Dahl said. “And just as they need to learn how to be smart and safe in the physical world, they need the skills and savvy to navigate a virtual world, an online cosmos of ever-expanding information and possibilities. The journey is beyond what many of their parents could ever have imagined when they were children; so too the risks.”
Dahl felt she had no choice but to write the book herself. Now just over two years later, there are three books, translations in Spanish and Dutch, a weekly comic strip, and a privacy enabled security platform for kids and their families. Dahl’s company CynjaTech is inspiring kids around the world to make smart choices in cyberspace.
“Children —like adults—enter a virtual world wherein forces of immense magnitude battle for power. Like the ancient myths and the imagined tales of fantasy and science fiction, this cyber darkness is filled with a new generation of monsters—zombies, worms, botnets and more. But there is one, critical difference; these monsters of reason are real, and they have the power to control the physical world,” Dahl said.
The Cynja uses awesome storytelling and “way cool” illustrations inspired by real cyber threats and technology. The third book in the series, “Code of the Cynja Volume 2,” is just being released this year. There’s also a new app called CynjaSpace, which is designed to help teach kids and their parents about security online.
With the combination of technology and media background, Dahl’s the perfect person to teach kids about trojans, worms and zombies. Heather was the Director of Global Analyst Relations at Neustar, a technology and information services company. Before joining Neustar, she worked in the media – Fox News Channel, Public Radio International, KUOW Seattle, PBS NewsHour, National Public Radio, C-SPAN and Reuters TV. In 2006, Dahl was elected to serve as Chairman of the Congressional Radio & TV Correspondents’ Association. Today, she is Chairman of the Board for the National Press Foundation.”
“Our kids must be prepared to fight and win the oncoming digital battle. This is what motivated me, as a technology professional, to create The Cynja, our successful new comic series teaching cyber security concepts in a way that kids can grasp. My ultimate mission is to engage children when they first encounter the Web—to teach them how to make smart choices, provide online security, and enable privacy protection as they navigate their new digital lives,” Dahl added.