Summer Camp for Kid Hackers: Fabulous or Foolish?

Computer nerd
Is a camp that teachers kids about hacking brilliant or bogus?

I know of a family who once sent their 9-year-old son to a gun safety class. It was a good idea in theory, I guess, considering they keep guns in the home. But the reality is that the 9-year-old boy was mostly just interested in firing a gun and had zero interest in safety. As far as the kid was concerned, the class was simply expensive target practice that he could brag about to friends.

That’s kind of how I look at a kids-only summer camp for hackers. The idea behind it is to sway the next generation of computer whizzes to do good things online instead of sinister things like breaching security of major companies and governments. But the reality, I suspect, is that most of the kids will be psyched to learn more tricks of the trade on how to break and enter computer systems that very much want to keep them out.

The Defcon Kids conference — the first of its kind — will be held in Las Vegas this August. Kids between eight and 16 will learn how to hack computers as well as protect themselves against cyber-attacks.

With high-profile hacking incidents on the ride, Defcon Kids says a goal is to “convince technologically-gifted youngsters that it is cool to be a ‘white hat,” a hacker who uses computer prowess and ingenuity to fight crime.” “Black hats” are people who hack with evil in mind, like to steal money or identities.

Elite hackers at Defcon Kids are volunteering their time to lead classes on things like computer programming, puzzle solving and lock picking. Yes, lock picking.

Participants won’t be engaged in any illegal activity like infiltrating private sites, but it will give them the opportunity to practice specific skills without fear of getting in trouble.

I guess in theory this camp is a good idea. But like sending a 9-year-old to a gun safety class, I’d be surprised if most of the kids involved are going with the intention of being cyber cops, or if they’re going instead to learn some tricks of the trade to perform deeds that the organizers are actually trying to prevent in the first place.

Do you have a good or bad feeling about the intentions of the Defcon Kids’ participants?

Image: Creative Commons


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