Pint-sized hackers develop skills at convention

Posted in Security on Monday, 08 August 2011 02:12

Las Vegas (Reuters) - Hackers start young and their parents couldn't be prouder about their children following in their footsteps.

Defcon, an annual hacker convention, held its first-ever program for children, aged 8 to 16, who listened to presentations about hacking, solving puzzles and laws while sitting at long conference tables, with some feet barely touching the ground.

The earlier generation of hackers has grown up and now has children of their own to bring up in the family tradition. So they brought the youngsters to Defcon Kids Saturday and Sunday for a bit of education.

"A lot of us who have been coming to Defcon over the last almost two decades are getting ... um ... more mature, we'll just put it that way," said Chris Hoff, founder of HacKid who helped organize the children's program at Defcon. "And a lot of us have kids of our own."

Federal agencies took the opportunity to introduce themselves to hackers in the developmental stages.

The National Security Agency, the Maryland-based spy agency, brought a World War Two-era Enigma machine, which was used to encrypt messages, to show children how to make a rudimentary cipher.

The children's program also included speakers from the Department of Homeland Security, NSA and the National Defense University.

Little girls in pink skirts and black T-shirts and little boys in jeans and T-shirts, along with teenagers, listened as an older generation told them how it used to be.

"I'm sort of jealous of you guys," said hacker "Dark Tangent," also known as Jeff Moss, founder of Defcon.

He said when he got his first computer, only half his friends also had one. He wished he was younger "so I could experience it all over again."

He cautioned the children that when he was younger there were fewer laws that hackers could break. "Now you could really mess up your life," he said. "Don't make any silly mistakes."

Hoff said basically most children in the United States are hackers in a way -- "whether that's video games and understanding the relationship of what makes that computer work."

Hoff, whose wife is a scientist, said his children were "born digitally native" and he proudly describes his 7-year-old daughter as a "tinkerer, a hacker," and said his 10-year-old daughter "by DNA, I think, was born to hack."

(Editing by Bill Trott)

Source: Reuters

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