Computer hacking has a bad reputation, and understandably so. When one hears about organizations exposing the credit cards of millions of PSN users, there's not much argument that its criminal behavior. Against that background is cast the shadow of a new hacker convention: DEFCON Kids.
DEFCON 19, the latest in the annual "hacking" convention runs from August 4-7 at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. As part of the event, for the first time there will be a DEFCON Kids sub-event, on August 6-7. Children between the ages of eight and 16 will be able to learn hacking skills.
To be clear, the emphasis at the conference will be teaching "white hat" hacking, or hacking for positive reasons. Primarily, the children will be taught a number of defensive computer techniques, such as how to keep from being hacked, phished or otherwise manipulated online.
It's not a bad idea. Children are more vulnerable to phishing, which uses social engineering to convince people to give up their secure information willingly. While most youngsters won't have bank accounts or credit cards to be hacked, they can still have their Facebook and other accounts intruded upon.
Chris Hadnagy, whose book "Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking
" was published in December of 2010, created a "Social Engineering Capture the Flag" game for the event. The game will include picking locks, reading body language and facial expressions, and deciphering clues. "Kids are great at it. This gives them a chance to grow into what we are now, the ones who keep companies secure."
The hackers of yesterday become the security experts of today, it's clear. Government representatives are now welcomed on panels such as "Meet the Fed." At the same time, police agencies go so far as to recruit cybersecurity talent at DEFCON.
For those who think DEFCON Kids will teach their children to become criminals, Christofer Hoff, a hacker dad and a lock picking tutor at DEFCON Kids said, "If you teach a kid how to light a match, does it mean he will turn into an arsonist? Probably not, but he will learn how not to burn himself."