Have things gotten so bad online security-wise that the government is now recruiting adolescents?
Reuters reports that the first-ever Defcon Kids conference will take place this August in Las Vegas, and will teach children ranging from ages eight to sixteen the basics of computer hacking, and how to protect themselves against cyber attacks. It will also serve as a recruiting farm for U.S. federal agents looking for the next-generation of "digital crime fighters."
As the name implies, Defon Kids is a spinoff of the Defcon hacker convention which also takes place in Las Vegas every summer. This year's Defcon 19 will take place on August 4 - 7; Defcon Kids will only last for two days, August 6 – 7. This new kids version will reportedly focus on hacking as a "white hat," or rather, a hacker that uses their skills for good rather than the "black hats" who apply their knowledge for stealing money, stealing identities and so on (AKA "evil").
"Hacking isn't just fun and games," said a 16-year-old 'FS' who will be teaching kids how to defend against Internet spies. Outside the convention, he gets paid by companies for breaking into computer networks to uncover vulnerabilities. "It isn't about breaking into systems. It's about securing yourself and the people around you," he added.
Reuters said that some of the most elite hackers in the world have volunteered to teach at Defcon Kids. Courses will include basic computer programming, lock picking, puzzle solving, using Google's search engine to find confidential information, and even modifying a circuit board so that it can play a game of "Simon." A ten-year-old Girl Scout – aka "CyFi" -- is reportedly one of the individuals organizing the conference – her identity has been stolen twice... and she's ten.
"Most of the time when people think of hacking, they think 'Oh that's a bad thing,'" she said. "I want to get more people to become good hackers and to have fun doing it."
Chris Hadnagy, one of the Defcon Kids instructors, said that the convention will give the kids an avenue to practice certain skills without the fear of getting into trouble. "We want to expose kids at an earlier age to the wonders of taking things apart and making them do things that they weren't intended to do," added Defcon founder Jeff Moss.
The first hacking convention for kids arrives while the hacking community is seemingly at civil war, with Anonymous and LulzSec serving on the offensive "black hat" team, and Web Ninjas and TeaMp0isoN serving on the defensive "white hat" team. The internet has literally been a cyber battleground since the attack and utter defeat of Sony's PlayStation Network. Governments, corporations and even gaming websites have fallen under the wrath of Anonymous' political statements and LulzSec's sheer amusement.
That said, teaching and recruiting adolescents that can't even drive should show just how desperate things have become in securing our private, sensitive data.