Communication grad harnesses power of internet for good
In hacker culture, “white hat hackers” use their skills to find issues and fix them before “black hat hackers” can exploit them.
Master of Arts in Professional Communication graduate Brandon Laur puts on his white hat not only to protect websites and data, but also the people behind the screens, especially young people.
Laur and his parents Darren and Beth Laur have been awarded the BC Medal of Good Citizenship for their life-changing and sometimes lifesaving volunteer work in social media safety and digital literacy with schools, students, parents and law enforcement.
Launched in 2015, the Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes people like the Laurs who have made outstanding contributions to the well-being of their communities. The medal honours their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life.
As part of his family company Personal Protection Systems (popularly known as the White Hatter), Laur and his siblings have been involved in nearly 200 successful interventions with teens who were at risk for self-harming or suicide because of cyberbullying or sexting. They have also connected with more than 450,000 students in 450 schools in BC and the rest of Canada.
“The most fulfilling and important aspect of our job is when a student approaches us online and they are dealing with something truly horrifying or hard, and we are able to intervene and help them,” says Laur.
Laur’s parents started the business more than 25 years ago, which at the time focused on physical safety. As Laur entered adolescence, he learned about hacker culture and shared the information with his father, who served nearly three decades with the Victoria Police Department. It was then that the company shifted its focus to address online safety.
Today, the business focuses primarily on cybersecurity and privacy. Though Laur and his siblings are paid for giving school presentations, they also volunteer countless hours by responding to anyone who contacts them with questions or issues related to digital safety.
Now that Laur has taught so many students online safety, he hopes to teach them how to use the technology to benefit them throughout their lives.
“We don’t say to people that the internet is a terrible thing because it truly isn’t. Like anything else in the world it can be used for good things or not so good things.
“In our presentations, we emphasize the power and importance of the internet. I think there’s not enough of that. I think far too often organizations and individuals are focused on the negative. Yes, there are negatives, but there are far more positives.”