For the first time a hacking conference in Las Vegas offered a kids track. Spanning two days, the DefCon conference let kids 8 to 16 explore security flaws in computer and gaming platforms they use every day hoping to convince them to be good hackers instead of bad.
“Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer of vulnerability management firm Qualys, brought his son, Filipe, 14, with him to Vegas, to participate in DefCon Kids. Dad came away with these observations.”
“My 14 year old son attended DEFCON this year for the first time and he took part in DEFCON Kids. On Saturday he was in the Social Engineering Capture the Flag (CTF) contest where he was teamed up with another 10 year old participant and had to solve a 6-step scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt involved decryption of secret messages, collection of information from multiple people on the DEFCON show floor and a good dose of critical thinking.”
“On Sunday he participated in the classroom sessions – at the end his favorites were “When you can remember your locker Combination” by Deviant and “Coding in Scratch” by Chris Hoff.”
“As a parent I loved seeing the interest sparked in my son by the challenges and class interactions. All instructors were extremely competent and focused on the benefits of gaining a real understanding of the technologies involved and when appropriate they discussed the moral and ethical questions involved (i.e. lock picking and social engineering).”
“There is another side to the hacking coin, though. In an “it takes a thief to catch a thief” sort of way, we need people with those same skills, and that same sense of wonder and curiosity–but with better ethics and a truer moral compass. We need hackers who can find the same holes as the malicious hackers, but work to plug them and protect systems and data rather than exploiting and compromising.’
“Cameron Camp, Researcher for ESET, says ‘Young hackers need to be convinced that hacker life is rewarding without going to the “dark side”–that interesting careers are to be had working for the good guys,” adding, “To that end, we see recent efforts from Google and Facebook at providing bounties to incentivize hackers for finding and reporting bugs, not exploiting them.’ “
“The Defcon kids track is an awesome idea. It’s a wonder it took this long to introduce such a concept. I expect the kids track at future Defcon conferences to have greater attendance, and hopefully we will all benefit one day from raising a new generation of hackers.”
About 60 kids took part. Their parents had to be there too.
This is something Walsh would love. He would be totally in!
Would your kid like this type of conference? Do you think you can train kids to be good hackers instead of bad?