LSU Art and Theater Talent Tapped by State to Improve Cybersecurity in Louisiana
October 12, 2022
BATON ROUGE – Two LSU graduate students are collaborating with the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness on a series of high-profile Cybersecurity Awareness Month public service announcements with Louisiana flavor.
Good cybersecurity requires more than sophisticated engineering combined with basic cyber hygiene, such as not making your password “password.” It also relies on clear and compelling communication, as well as great art and design.
When the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, or GOHSEP, was looking to create a series of high-profile public service announcements to increase cybersecurity in Louisiana, they turned to the LSU College of Art + Design and the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts. Two LSU graduate students are now working with GOHSEP on three 30-second educational videos to roll out this October, which is national Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Isabella Mire is a first-year art student from Charenton, Louisiana, and Douglas Streater is a final-year theater student from Charleston, South Carolina.
“I’m Louisiana-born-and-raised and really love this state, so this was an opportunity for me to give back as an artist,” Mire said. “And with cybersecurity, I was also excited about that, because I work in a digital medium. I do animations, motion graphics and other forms of digital art, and yet, I didn’t know anything about cybersecurity. So, it was really cool, because I learned a lot working on this project, and I was like, ‘Wow! We really do need more public awareness about this!’ Because I was unaware—I’m myself in the target audience.”
“I just really like helping people,” Streater said. “It was my voice professor, Dr. Rocky, who recommended me for the voice-over work. I trust him a lot, so when he trusted me with this, I said ‘yes’ out of good, old-fashioned respect, I guess. I’ve always loved telling stories and creating images with words.”
The three videos Mire and Streater have created share cybersecurity tips and information with Louisiana flavor and cultural references, such as screen doors, jazz clubs and football fields.
“We’re mixing in Louisiana imagery to connect with more people,” Mire said. “Just little staples of life that people in Louisiana can understand and relate to, to get the information across better.”
GOHSEP is the state agency responsible for coordinating Louisiana’s efforts to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from both man-made and natural disasters. Cyberattacks are always man-made, increasingly frequent, and range from nuisances, at best, to life- and industry-destroying catastrophes, at worst. As an energy leader and home to much of the nation’s most critical infrastructure, Louisiana is a prime target for keyboard criminals. Small businesses and regular residents are also frequent victims, and yet simple protective strategies, such as implementing or enabling multi-factor authentication, can stop 99 percent of cyberattacks.
“Each October, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, along with our federal, state, local and private partners, participate in National Cybersecurity Awareness Month...This year, we wanted to include some animations in our outreach that highlight important cybersecurity hygiene practices while appealing to the public through Louisiana themes. Our partners at LSU were quick to offer assistance, and the work the two graduate students produced far exceeded our expectations. We look forward to future coordination on cybersecurity projects.”
Matthew McKey, GOHSEP cybersecurity program manager
The style Mire chose for the videos is stick figure-like. She began the project by drawing with a pencil on paper.
“Cybersecurity is super high-tech and some things are hard to portray, while I wanted a simple and homey aesthetic,” Mire said. “So, the characters are literal stick people, but they have form. They have a certain amount of thickness to them. They wear shirts.”
Throughout the project, she has been meeting with her advisor, Associate Professor Derick Ostrenko in the LSU College of Art + Design, and McKey from GOHSEP.
“We’ve been meeting every Thursday,” Mire said. “That’s been nice, because talking in-person is always best. I talk to Mr. McKey, and then he passes things around his cybersecurity group and gets back to me with thoughts. It’s been a great learning experience about how to communicate with people who don’t have the same background as you or knowledge of your medium. I think it will make me more effective on future projects.”
Streater recorded the voice-overs on the LSU campus together with his advisor, Assistant Professor of Voice Rocky Sansom.
“It’s such a pleasure to connect our students with high-profile opportunities that showcase their work and the first-class talent we have on the LSU campus,” Sansom said.
Streater already had experience with lending his voice to projects led by engineers. Earlier this year, he was the voice of Mimir, an animatronic talking head built by LSU mechanical and industrial and electrical engineering seniors.
“While the Mimir project was more about drama—making some parts sound more upbeat or a little more ominous—this one was more about clarity and just getting the message across,” Streater said.
“It’s interesting, because I’ve thought a lot in recent weeks about how artists and engineers are actually codependent,” Mire added. “Engineers can create technology, but it takes artists and designers to convey the information about the technology in a way a viewer wants to look at it and receive information. We need each other. It blends.”
Now that the videos are public, Mire looks forward to what she calls a “teaching moment” as she shows them to her Louisiana family.
“I’ll be like, ‘Allow me to explain…,’” Mire said. “‘You need dual authentication to protect your online accounts, and you need to start not making everything the same password! Because our personal information is out there, and we don’t want our stuff taken.’”
The student-produced public service announcements for GOHSEP about limiting administrative privileges, multi-factor authentication and security updates and patching are now available to watch online. More cybersecurity tips and resources are available on GOHSEP’s GetAGamePlan.org website.