Online safety is a prime topic of interest to Brandon Laur. In fact, teaching the ins and outs of personal protection has been the family trade since 1993.
Recently, Brandon and his parents Darren and Beth Laur, were awarded the BC Medal of Good Citizenship for their hard work with the family company The White Hatter.
The company and Brandon himself has travelled across North America to present a veritable body of privacy and cybersecurity advice to students, parents and law enforcement.
As the way these things tend to go, Brandon first discovered his passion in seventh grade. He’d begun to get “really interested” in hacker culture, he said. Being his parents’ son, Brandon wanted to gain the ability to present all the computer network security issues he’d found. He decided to ask his father, a “seasoned professional presenter.”
“When I was learning about my father, who was a serving member with the Detriot police at the time, he was the use of force trainer, and he’s been teaching safety for pretty much the majority of his life,” said Brandon, a Royal Roads University student.
From that point forward, the company started to be less about personal safety and more about online safety, he said.
The company has reached 450,000 students in 450 schools in Canada and the U.S.
Their success has been in part due to their ability to encourage students to think critically about their internet use rather than discourage them because of the negatives.
“If all you say is ‘Don’t do this – bad people – that type of stuff, it’s really going to be discouraging,” Brandon said. “We pride ourselves in giving upfront and accurate information.
“Students today, they are the experts in what they’re doing with technology, and we need to respect that.”
Ultimately, the goal is for students to prove they can make wise decisions, he added.
The White Hatter solution to the overwhelming online issues that exist is for everyone to work together, Brandon said. Part of that is teaching law enforcement how to access resources, including other departments, that they may be siloed from and working with schools who don’t realize the services that are available to them.
The outreach is certainly getting noticed, most notably by the province.
“The Laur family will take phone calls, emails and text messages anytime day or night, and all this is done on their own time and at no cost. The Laur family also dedicate hundreds of hours every year to students who would like help in securing their social networks.
“To date, thousands of students, and even teachers and parents from across British Columbia, have taken Darren, Beth and Brandon up on this offer,” the province recognizes on its website.