HackersTop hackers to teach children at DEFCON Kids

Published 6 July 2011

At an upcoming gathering of some of the world’s most talented hackers, children will have the opportunity to learn hacking skills from the best;DEFCON, the infamous annual gathering of hackers, will hold DEFCON Kids for the first time; the decision to teach children hacking skills is controversial and is even drawing criticism from members within the DEFCON community

Training the next generation of hackers // Source: hothardware.com

At an upcoming gathering of some of the world’s most talented hackers, children will have the opportunity to learn hacking skills from the best.

DEFCON, the infamous annual gathering of hackers, will hold DEFCON Kids for the first time.

Hackers are getting older and having kids,” explainedJoe Grand, a regular DEFCON attendee who will be teaching hardware hacking at DEFCON Kids. “It is interesting to follow the process of other people’s backup units; how they are coming along.”

As a teenager, Grand said that his abilities to hack computers allowed him perks like free phone calls, but he also got into trouble eventually getting arrested for “computer-related stuff.”

I was scared straight and there was nobody there to guide me straight,” Grand said.”It feels nice to have an opportunity to be a mentor for kids who might be outcasts at school for having skills that aren’t cool; that other kids don’t understand.”

The decision to teach children hacking skills is controversial and is even drawing criticism from members within the DEFCON community. Classes on lock picking and social engineering, manipulating people into revealing sensitive information, are particularly contentious issues.

Everyone is up in arms that we are going to teach kids to be evil, but that is not the case,” said Chris Hadnagy, who helps protect companies from hackers and will serve as a mentor at DEFCON KIDS.

Think critically, think objectively — that is what this industry teaches people,” Hadnagy said. “The Internet is a breeding ground of predators, and not falling for those things is a skill I want my kids to have when someone is trying to manipulate them into something; whether it is peer pressure or a malicious adult.”

Supporters of DEFCON Kids say that children are constantly surrounded by technology and they are helping to provide guidance and a safe place for kids to legally practice their skills.

While DEFCON has a bit of edgy counter-culture to it, there is a need to harness, direct and encourage children,” said Christofer Hoff, who will teach lock picking at DEFCON Kids. “It is a natural complement.”

Hadnagy hascreated a “Capture the Flag” type game for the event where kids will have to decipher clues, pick locks, and read body language and subtle facial expressions.

Kids are great at it,” said Hadnagy. “This gives them a chance to grow into what we are now, the ones who keep companies secure.”

DEFCON was started in 1993 by Jeff Moss as a renegade gathering of hackers but has gradually evolved into a gathering of responsible hackers who partner with the U.S. government and companies to defend against cyberattacks.

Agents were once pointed out in games like “Spot the Fed,” but are now welcomed on panels called “Meet the Fed.” In addition law enforcement agencies now set up booths and exhibits to recruit talented hackers at the convention.

The event will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on 6 August to 7 August and is open to children ages eight to sixteen.

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