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WLHS graduate introduces cyber security superhero: The Cynja

A new comic book is teaching young computer users how to be safe on the Internet.


A virtual world where “cyber outlaws” are corrupting computer networks is teaching young readers about Internet safety.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED BY HEATHER C. DAHL - 'The Cynja' is the first in a series of graphic novels co-written by WLHS graduate Heather C. Dahl. The book is illustrated by Shirow Di Rosso.“The Cynja” is a newly released comic book written and illustrated by Heather C. Dahl, Chase Cunningham and Shirow Di Rosso. The book’s authors and illustrator crafted the comic in hopes of teaching children how to avoid dangerous situations on the Internet. The Cynja, a cyber ninja, is the protagonist who many children idolize for his daring attempts to defeat the “bad guys,” or malware, lurking within technology devices.

Cunningham worked for the U.S. Navy as an analyst in the Department of Defense’s network exploitation program. From his home in Texas, he helped Dahl create the story of the Cynja. DahlDahl is a broadcast journalist living in Washington D.C. who now uses her writing skills to tell a story that compliments the action-packed illustrations drawn by Di Rosso. The Belgian IT engineer used his expertise to transform abstract concepts of today’s virtual world into a series of pictures.

Dahl’s appreciation for technology began in the computer labs at Wood Middle School and West Linn High School.

She logged extensive hours in each school’s computer labs making cards for friends, drafting posters and typing class papers.

As Dahl did not have a computer in her home, she says the opportunity to experiment with computers at school was indispensible.

“When you’re looking at developing kids for careers in technology — whether it be marketing, programming, or engineering — offering these opportunities are pivotal,” she said.

Dahl’s interest in technology led her to the discovery of darknets, malware, botnets and other threats alluded to in the book.

“Stranger danger” is a common phrase familiar to many children. Dahl says that this cautionary attitude is just as important on the Internet as in public. When Dahl explained this to her nephew, Grant, he struggled to visualize “bad guys” roaming within a thin screen that he can hold in his hands.

Dahl decided to write a book that would aid Grant in his understanding of who these “bad guys” are and what they do.

Dahl and Cunningham introduced readers to terms such as spear phishing and trojans through the use of book characters.

In fact, the book’s main character is named after Dahl’s nephew. A boy named Grant becomes the Cynja who protects the virtual world from the Botmaster, and his armies of zombies and worms. In other words, the Cynja is on a mission to protect computer networks from harmful technology.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED BY HEATHER C. DAHL - 'The Cynja' illustrator Shirow Di Rosso depicts the virtual world and the hidden presence of technology dangers.The primary goal of the story is to help young readers make the connection between the exciting fantasy plot and real life danger. After Grant read his aunt’s book, he became a more judicious computer user. As an aspiring potion maker, Grant says it is important to know what websites are secure and safe for him to post his potion recipes.

The book includes a reference section where readers can look up technical terms and concepts used in the story to help solidify their meanings.

The Cynja Field Instruction Manual, a coloring book to be released in September, is an extension of this reference section further reinforcing the technical language of computers.

The Cynja is the first of a three volume series. What is next for the virtual world? A girl cynja.

Here’s a little hint, she is somewhere in the first book.



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